Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the government established the Independent Grenfell Tower Inquiry in August 2017. The findings of the inquiry included many important recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. The Government introduced new fire safety regulations that would bring the recommendations into force. These regulations take the form of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022; which came into force on 23rd January 2023.
The Regulations apply to all buildings in England that comprise of two or more domestic premises or where an evacuation route goes through a common shared area with other residents. The height of a building also comes into play with the requirements. These buildings are, principally, blocks of flats, HMO’s and student accommodation.
New Guidelines – Fire Safety Regulations
The Home Office has published new guidance regarding the responsibilities of individuals under the regulations. It already required responsible persons where necessary to take certain steps to ensure the safety of residents.
The guidance covers the following duties:
For all residential buildings:
- Duty to display fire safety instructions, including evacuation strategy and how to report the fire – these must be in a comprehensible form that residents can reasonably be expected to understand.
For buildings over 11m in height:
- Duty to complete fire door checks – these must be checked at least every three months.
- Duty to complete flat entrance door checks – these must be checked at least once in any 12-month period. A record of the steps taken to comply with this requirement must be kept, including where access to a flat was not granted for the purpose of the checks.
The fire doors, whether flat entrance fire doors or not, should effectively be self-closing and the door, frame and any glazing should be undamaged. Defects in the doors, frames, glazing and self-closing devices should be rectified as soon as reasonably practicable.
For high-rise buildings (buildings at least 18m above ground level or at least 7 storeys):
- Duty to ensure appropriate wayfinding signage – to assist fire and rescue service crews with orientation in the event of a fire. The signs must be visible both in normal conditions and in low lighting or smoky conditions.
- Duty to have a secure information box – must be positioned at a location in or on the building that is readily accessible to the fire and rescue service. The box must include a copy of floor and building plans as well as contact details for the building’s responsible person and anyone who acts on behalf of the responsible person.
- Duty to have a record of the design of the external walls of the buildings alongside a risk assessment – to assist the fire and rescue service with operational pre-planning and to provide information that will be of value to front line crews in the event of a fire. This information must be provided to the fire and rescue services electronically.
- Duty to have a floor plan and building plan as well as to provide the plans to the fire service – a plan for each floor of a high-rise residential building or one plan if each floor are the same in all material respects. The floor plans must include the location of all lifts and key fire-fighting equipment in the building and must be provided to the fire and rescue services electronically.
- Duty to complete regular checks of fire-fighting equipment and lifts – these must be completed monthly and records of all checks to be recorded. The records of these checks must be accessible to residents of the building
For further in depth detail on these requirements please see the government website https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/check-your-fire-safety-responsibilities-under-the-fire-safety-england-regulations-2022/check-your-fire-safety-responsibilities-under-the-fire-safety-england-regulations-2022
As with any legal requirement these will impact your insurance cover should they not be followed. In the event of a claim insurers will request proof of the detailed checks having been completed. Failure to do so may invalidate the claim. It is important that owners and all responsible persons as detailed by the government requirements are up to date with your legal responsibilities under the new legislation.