On 23 January 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (Regulations) will come into force, implementing the majority of the recommendations made to the Government following phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
The Regulations follow the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021 and mainly apply to high-rise residential buildings, imposing significant new obligations on those responsible for the management of multi-unit residential buildings in England.
Like the Fire Safety Order, the Regulations impose obligations on the ‘Responsible Person’ of existing residential buildings, who is usually the owner of the common parts or the person with control over the building.
The Regulations will apply, to some extent, to all multi-unit residential buildings in England, with the range and nature of the obligations on the Responsible Person increasing as the height of the relevant building increases.
In relation to any residential building containing two or more sets of domestic premises and shared common parts, the Responsible Person must:
- Display fire safety instructions in a visible part of the building, which will include instructions relating to the evacuation strategy, instructions on how to report a fire to the fire and rescue authority and any other instructions telling residents what they must do in the event of a fire -the Responsible Person must provide a copy of the instructions to new residents of the building as soon as reasonably practicable upon their moving in and re-issue these instructions to all existing residents at periods not exceeding 12 months;
- Undertake annual checks on fire doors at flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of any fire doors in communal areas of the building to include providing information to the residents regarding the importance of fire doors in relation to fire safety including that they should be kept shut when not in use, self-closing devices should not be modified and that any faults or damage to doors should be reported to the Responsible Person immediately.;
For multi-occupied residential buildings over 11 metres in height, Responsible Persons will also be required to use their best endeavours to perform a check of the fire doors at the entrance of each domestic premises in the building at least once a year. A record of steps taken to comply with this duty must be kept. In addition, at least every 3 months, checks of fire doors in communal areas must be completed.
For a multi-unit residential building over 18 metres in height will be required to satisfy the following further obligations:
- Install and maintain a secure information box in the building, which must be easily accessible and contain the name and contact details of the Responsible Person and hard copies of the building floor plans. This secure information box must be inspected at least annually to ensure it still meets the requirements of the Regulations;
- Prepare a record of the design of the external walls of the building, including details of the materials from which they are constructed;
- Prepare floor plans to identify the location of all lifts and identify if the lift is one for use by firefighters or an evacuation lift, and the key fire-fighting equipment in the whole building. A single page building plan must also be prepared identifying a number of features of the building, including but not limited to the use of the building, dimensions of the building, access for fire and rescue, the location of the secure information box, main stairwells and number of stories. This information should be stored in the secure information box;
- Undertake monthly routine checks of lifts for use by firefighters, evacuation lifts and essential fire-fighting equipment within the building and keep records of such checks;
- Install clear markings of floor identification and identification of domestic premises in circumstances where there is limited visibility.
The implementation of the Regulations marks another significant, and welcome, step in the overhaul of England’s fire safety regime and will, it is to be hoped, result in real and tangible improvements in fire safety in residential buildings (and avoid another Grenfell Tower fire tragedy). They Regulations have broadly been welcomed as fire safety improvements, particularly in high-rise residential buildings where building standards can be more restrictive and fire-fighting tactics can be more challenging.
Notably, an exception to the recommendations implemented by the Regulations are evacuation plans, including Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs). The Government considered PEEPS were practically very difficult to mandate in high-rise buildings.
Any Responsible Persons will quickly need to ensure that they have taken appropriate steps to comply with the Regulations or face the risk of fines and/or imprisonment under the Fire Safety Order.
Regards to all