IFSJ Exclusive: The good practice guide to fire safety

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IFSJ takes a look at the IWFM’s Fire Safety Management good practice guide produced in partnership with PlanRadar

On Monday 23 January, the first of several pieces of fire and building safety legislation arriving in 2023 came into force in the UK. In order to help facilities managers stay up to date with the latest statutory guidance and industry best practice, the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) published a newly updated ‘Fire safety management’ good practice guide (GPG), developed in partnership with B2B software company and fire consultancy specialists PlanRadar.

The guide sets out the key requirements for managing fire safety in England where the Regulatory (Reform) Fire Safety Order 2005 applies and provides core good practice and signposting for facilities management professionals, those with Responsible Persons duties, and those acting on behalf of Responsible Persons (RPs).

The GPG has been updated to include requirements from the Fire Safety Act 2021, the Building Act 2022, and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, and outlines the relevant legislation for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Responsible Persons

The Fire Safety Order requires an RP to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks relevant persons are exposed to in order to identify the fire precautions they need to take to be able to comply with the requirements and exclusions required of them by the Fire Safety Order.

The aim of new regulation is to improve the communication of fire risk information between RPs and residents, such as providing up-to-date electronic building floor plans to local fire services and including a hard copy of floor plans on-site in a secure information box. RPs are also required to monitor lifts and firefighting equipment operation on a monthly basis and carry out repairs as needed. Facilities managers are responsible for understanding all the fire risk elements of an asset and keeping track of all installation, maintenance, and replacement data.

A facilities manager can be an RP, and so the definitions for a Responsible Person is wide-ranging. Where a facilities manager is not the RP, the scope of the risk assessment must be clearly defined in writing. It will therefore be essential for facilities managers to have a clear and accurate definition of the exact role they, or any other property manager, have agreed to undertake on behalf of the Responsible Person.

“The risk of potential prosecution and heavy fines will provide motivation to improving the lax approach to safety checks.”

Part of the idea is that by placing increased emphasis on the RP, the risk of potential prosecution and heavy fines will provide motivation and should go some way to improving the lax approach to safety checks – particularly around fire doors. A full, tamperproof audit trail of all completed work will be instrumental in meeting these new legal requirements.

What does the guide cover?

The guide provides UK-focussed guidance and signposting for facilities management professionals, those with RPs duties, and those acting on behalf of RPs, so they can meet the latest fire safety legislation requirements.

It was updated following the tragic loss of life from 2017’s Grenfell Tower fire, policy changes resulted in several pieces of legislation being introduced or updated. The guide supports IWFM members and the workplace and facilities management sector in learning and complying with those wide-ranging changes to fire safety.

“Workplace and facilities managers play a critical role in driving fire safety within workplaces and residential buildings,” says IWFM. “As a professional body, it’s IWFM’s duty to support our members when keeping people safe. Upskilling people and driving competence was a core pillar of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety; providing guidance is one such route towards continuous learning and becoming more competent.

“IWFM helped to shape both Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review, and the various pieces of legislation that resulted from it, including the Building Safety Act 2022.”

On how IWFM it ended up working with PlanRadar, it adds: “IWFM engages in strategic partnerships with leading innovative brands to help us enhance our research and insight offering, provide greater value to our members, and strengthen our voice for the workplace and facilities management profession.”

A new era of compliance

PlanRadar says that 2023 heralds a new era in fire safety and compliance and so Facilities Managers (FMs) need to be on top of the new legislative detail to maintain and future-proof their buildings and assets: “The focus is on increased accountability to create a safer, smarter, and more responsible industry, with tough repercussions for those who fall short.

“Fire safety standards and knowledge vary wildly between businesses and these new regulations represent a step towards safer construction. By partnering with the IWFM, PlanRadar can help provide some clarity and guidance around the new key requirements for managing fire safety in the United Kingdom.”

Incorporating a digital-first approach will also help to fill the skills gap left by a lack of fire engineers.

Businesses now need to be solutions-driven, with a requirement for digital systems which can capture and record to be in place from 23rd January 2023 to ensure ongoing compliance with the Fire Safety Regulations. PlanRadar says that incorporating a digital-first approach will also help to fill the skills gap left by a lack of fire engineers and eliminate human error throughout fire safety assessments.

The consultancy adds: “The combination of our digital platform and the IWFM´s new guidance ensures that FMs have the best knowledge and best practice at their fingertips. At PlanRadar we try to make working together easier and equipping our clients with both the relevant legislative guidance and a sophisticated, flexible platform ensures they can simply and quickly create the relevant tamperproof audit trail they need to create a golden thread of information throughout the build-lifecycle.”

This article was originally published in the April edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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