Government stress building owners and premises management are fully responsible for the fire safety of their buildings

Tuesday 1st December 2020
Written question regarding fire safety work answered 30/11/2020

Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, has asked the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government “whether he plans to provide funding for remedial work to buildings which do not comply with fire safety regulations but do not have problems relating to cladding.”

The Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) Christopher Pincher, Conservative MP for Tamworth, reminded building owners and premises management that fire safety remains their responsibility as outlined in fire safety legislation. He stresses: “Building owners or other responsible entities managing blocks of flats are responsible for the safety of their buildings. We have made £1.6 billion available to support the remediation of unsafe cladding on buildings of 18 meters and above. This reflects the exceptional fire risk that certain cladding products pose at that height, as noted by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent report.”

Post Grenfell, cladding has been one of the areas Government has intervened to assist in establishing a safe building environment with funding made available as stated above. However, Pincher warns that the unsafe cladding funding “does not absolve industry from responsibility and taking action. We expect developers, investors and building owners to cover remediation costs themselves, meeting their legal and contractual obligations, recovering costs or drawing on warranties where applicable, without passing on costs to leaseholders.”

Pincher concludes by stating “This Government is determined to identify suitable financing solutions, remove barriers to remediation, and protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs. The Government has asked Michael Wade to accelerate work with the financial sector to identify affordable solutions, and we will be updating the House.”

BAFE and Fire and Rescue Services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has stressed that fire safety obligations must continue to be met to provide a safe environment from fire. Any additional COVID-19 safety measures introduced must also acknowledge all health and safety and fire safety requirements on-site and must all work together in the interest of life safety and protection.

Stephen Adams, Chief Executive – BAFE, comments “this issue is very interesting, as it raises huge questions of misunderstanding of fire safety legislation and responsibilities. The Minister of State is completely right, building owners should already be implementing any remedial work required to meet these obligations.

This misunderstanding is precisely why BAFE demand stronger Government issued guidance on who is considered competent to provide essential life safety work.” – This was recently noted in BAFE’s response to the Government Fire Safety Consultation.

At the time of submitting the response to the consultation, BAFE commented: “The BAFE Fire Safety Register (and the whole UKAS Accredited competency sector) demand greater Government issued guidance on who is considered competent to provide essential life safety work. This must be at the same level of HSE Guidance, which can then be used to lawfully judge who was at fault for any safety breaches under the FSO [Fire Safety Order] and included in any statutory defence. With many buildings not having a dedicated fire safety officer, these responsibilities are just a part of another staff members/owners’ duties and clearer guidance must be issued for quick reference to ensure they remain compliant to the law. Stipulating what is required to determine competency can assist in sourcing quality providers to help them meet their fire safety responsibilities with due diligence. Compliance will improve with mandated competency levels that must be adhered to and specified, thus appropriately regulating the industry with no additional cost to Government.”