Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government outline “biggest changes to building safety regulation in a generation”

Wednesday 7th July 2021
Building Safety Bill published 05/07/2021

On Monday 5th July 2021, the Building Safety Bill was published. In their press release, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, Lord Stephen Greenhalgh and The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP state this “will create lasting generational change and set out a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained.”

The newly established Building Safety Regulator “will oversee the new regime and will be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high rise residential buildings of 18m and above are effectively managed and resolved, taking cost into account.

This will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction, and safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.      

These changes will simplify the existing system to ensure high standards are continuously met, with a ‘golden thread’ of information created, stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the regulator, wherever necessary”.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP notes that the entire lifecycle of a building is being scrutinised at every stage with “essential oversight” under a close watch of the regulator. BAFE strongly support this approach, as maintenance of fire safety systems and provisions can often be overlooked by premises management. As always, all stages should be performed by competent contractors who hold appropriate UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification.

In correspondence between Rachel Atkinson, Director – Fire, Events and Central Management Directorate (Home Office) and Dennis Davis, Executive Officer – Fire Sector Federation it was disclosed that “The Building Safety Bill marks the next step in the Government’s ongoing reforms to ensure everyone’s home is a place of safety. The Bill will deliver improvements across the entire built environment. It will strengthen oversight and protections for residents in high-rise buildings. It will give a greater say to residents of tall buildings and toughen sanctions against those who threaten their safety. Its focus on risk will help owners to manage their buildings better, while giving the home-building industry the clear, proportionate, framework it needs to deliver more, better, high-quality homes”.

Rachel Atkinson continued “The Bill also includes a clause that will amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) to support greater compliance with, and effective enforcement of, the Order in all non-domestic premises and the common parts of multi-occupied residential buildings. The new requirements will increase the transparency of Responsible Persons’ activities under the Order and provide further reassurance to the public that those responsible for their safety from fire wherever they live, stay or work, can be held to account”.

Stephen Adams, Chief Executive – BAFE, commented “We are now seeing years of discussion that predominantly focussed on the subject of competency come into legal action. This is a monumental feat achieved by multiple organisations and individuals within the fire safety sector and we applaud our industry colleagues who have provided, and will continue to provide, valuable input to establish a safer built environment”.

An interesting point made in Rachel Atkinson’s correspondence discussed the competency of fire risk assessment providers. They noted “that Responsible Persons must not appoint a person to assist them with making or reviewing a fire risk assessment under Article 9 [of the Fire Safety Order] unless they are competent”. BAFE continue to trust that UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification provides quality evidence of competency for specific fire safety services. The Fire Sector Federation’s “Guide to Choosing a Competent Fire Risk Assessor” outlines it is “important that the company for whom the fire risk assessor works has adequate management systems in place, even if the fire risk assessor is self-employed” adding “competence of a company to deliver fire risk assessments can be demonstrated by third party certification of the company by a UKAS accredited Certification Body”.

Government fire safety guidance continues to stress UKAS Accredited Third Party Certification declaring they “are an effective means of providing the fullest possible assurances, offering a level of quality, reliability and safety that non-certificated products [and services] may lack”. We look forward to new/additional guidance developed by HSE and the Building Safety Regulator will build on this to help premises management have a clearer definition of how competency can be demonstrated when sourcing contractors.

Graham Watts OBE, Chief Executive – Construction Industry Council, together with additional information, outlined what this means for building owners:

  • Building owners will be required to actively manage safety risks, including gateway points at design, construction and completion. 
  • This will ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction, with fire safety risks considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.     
  • They will also have to ensure that residents are able to raise concerns about safety and that any concerns are listened to. 
  • Those who don’t meet their obligations may face criminal charges.

BAFE issue a stark warning to all premises management who hold the “Responsible Person” role. This is not to be treated lightly, make sure you document all your actions regarding life safety measures and who is employed (internal or external) to assist in helping you suitably meet your fire safety obligations. Exercising full due diligence is key to maintaining a safe built environment moving forward.