Fire safety compliance in England’s high-rises falls short under new regulations

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Recent findings reveal low compliance rates

According to new research from FASTSIGNS UK, fire and rescue services in England have received only a fraction of the required building and external wall plans for high-rise buildings under the updated fire safety regulations.

These findings, based on Freedom of Information requests to 18 fire services, show that only about 30% of building plans and 21% of external wall plans have been submitted since the regulations were updated.

This low compliance comes despite the legal obligation for responsible persons of high-rise residential buildings, with seven or more storeys, to provide local fire and rescue services with essential safety information, as stipulated by the Fire Safety (England) Regulation 2022, effective from 23 January 2023.

The importance of these regulations was underscored by the Grenfell Tower tragedy in July 2017, which led to enhanced legal requirements including the necessity for clear, updated building plans to facilitate safe and effective emergency responses.

Variation in compliance across regions

The research highlights significant disparities in compliance among different fire services across England.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service reported the highest compliance, receiving 88% of both building and external wall plans.

In stark contrast, Nottingham Fire & Rescue Service received only 6% of building plans and a mere 4% of external wall plans.

This suggests a varied landscape of adherence across the region, potentially impacting the effectiveness of fire services during emergencies.

The data for this research was gathered to help fire services prepare more effectively for potential emergencies, ensuring they have the necessary information to navigate high-rise buildings safely.

It also aims to facilitate safer evacuation for residents by providing clear, signposted exit routes.

Comments from industry experts

John Davies, managing director of FASTSIGNS UK, emphasised the critical role of up-to-date safety information in building management: “No matter what the industry, health and safety signage is fundamental in minimising risks and supporting people’s wellbeing, as well as being crucial in the event of an emergency.

“With certified safety and directional signage, both residents and response teams will be able to clearly navigate high-rise buildings when an incident occurs.

“We work closely with our customers around England so that any buildings that fall under this criteria meet these new requirements.”

IFSJ Comment

The recent study revealing the low compliance with fire safety regulations in England’s high-rises raises significant concerns about safety standards and enforcement.

While some regions like Cheshire showcase high levels of adherence, the overall low compliance rate across the country points to a critical need for stronger enforcement and accountability mechanisms.

This issue highlights gaps in the regulatory framework and stresses the need for continuous improvement and oversight to ensure that safety regulations are more than just statutory requirements but actual practices that safeguard lives.

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