The changing landscape of fire safety

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Navigating the maze of new fire safety regulations, FR Consultants’ Managing Director Dorian Lawrence sheds light on adaptive compliance strategies

The introduction of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and the Building Safety Act 2022 has significantly altered the landscape of fire safety compliance in England.

These new standards present a complex challenge that requires diligent navigation and understanding.

FRC, under the leadership of Managing Director Dorian Lawrence, has been actively engaging with this shifting terrain.

By offering tailored services, conducting informative webinars, and providing essential guides to meet these regulations, FRC demonstrates a commitment to assisting clients in meeting and exceeding these new compliance standards.

In this exclusive interview, Lawrence outlines FRC’s strategies, challenges, and unique approaches, offering valuable insights into the evolving world of fire safety.

His perspectives provide a thoughtful examination of the industry’s response to the regulatory transformation, and how FRC contributes to the collective effort of building a more resilient and compliant future.

How is FRC helping clients navigate the shifting terrain of fire safety regulations?

First and foremost, FRC is there to understand and explain the regulations.

Working closely with industry experts and joining government panels and forums, we can be at the forefront of new developments and advisories so that we can feed back the latest developments to our clients.

Once we understand something, we try to make it as accessible as possible, and we regularly conduct webinars, undertake certified continuing professional development sessions and send out fact sheets and newsletters, all with the aim of breaking down the very technical guidelines into simple, actionable steps and providing the necessary information on how to meet compliance.

We also offer services tailored to what the market needs in order to meet the new regulations, such as the recent launch of our abbreviated site inspection service to confirm whether a fire risk appraisal of external walls (FRAEW), as specified by PAS 9980, is required.

What are the biggest challenges in adapting to the new legislation?

The biggest challenges are probably the short time frame and the cost.

The sheer scale of this legislation – in a relatively short time, the industry has gone from self-regulation to complete external regulation that brings in the fire services, government bodies and consultancies – has meant that many things are being introduced without a long lead-in or time to adequately prepare and produce documentation.

It leads to a large degree of ‘learn by trying’ as everyone tries to grapple with the exact requirements of the all-new legislation.

This isn’t helped by cases in which legislation overlaps itself and – in some cases – even contradicts itself.

To some degree, this is to be expected with such a huge change of legislation, but it does present challenges.

What strategies FRC has implemented to assist clients in adapting to new regulations?

The biggest thing we’ve done is develop a full, end-to-end service from report to completion of building safety case, with every step in between provided.

For clients who want complete compliance and peace of mind, we can take care of every step in-house.

For those who need only a helping hand, we have produced easy-to-read guides on different routes to compliance and a legal notices service, and, most recently, our abbreviated site inspection provides an economical solution for those who need assurances on whether a FRAEW is needed.

How is FRC pioneering the adaptation to the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and the Building Safety Act 2022?

FRC believes in the power of the new legislation to make the UK’s buildings safer, and we are doing everything we can to ensure the implementation is a success. That starts with education: webinars with partners to combine and share knowledge and ensuring that our clients can understand what is required of them.

We create as much collateral as is needed and try to leverage visual aids such as building information charts and fact sheets to condense and simplify the requirements.

Along with having staff undertake the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Level 6 diploma to prepare them for looking after the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety in higher risk buildings and establishing a clear point of contact for residents for fire- and safety-related issues, we’ve spoken to legal partners for advice on how to ensure correctness on all points.

What insights can you provide to property owners or managers on how to stay ahead of the curve?

There are two main routes you can go, depending on how confident you are.

The first is, as mentioned, to use an all in-house, end-to-end service such as the one we provide; then you know without a doubt that everything is up to scratch and will meet compliance.

If you manage the process yourself, prioritisation is key: understand what you need to do, break it down into steps and tackle tasks one at a time.

There are also lots of things that will take time, so get things rolling straight away.

It’s always worth getting advice, though, and the most important thing is to ensure that you are listening to qualified, experienced professionals.

How has FRC’s approach aided clients in navigating new fire safety regulations?

Our approach to diligence and detail, combined with our goal to improve fire safety, means we are 100% committed to backing the legislation.

This has been proven on several occasions, but one recent example is when we provided a client, the property manager, with a PAS 9980 report.

The pledge developer of the building then sought out their own report, as is their right, but when this came back the property manager noted dissimilarities and asked us to peer review the report.

The new report that had been obtained by the pledge developer was absolutely non-compliant and suggested remediation proposals that were wholly inadequate, including that combustible materials be left in place on a high-risk building above 18 metres in height.

We were able to challenge the new report, and the developer’s suggestion that BS 8414 testing had been carried out, and to ensure that the unsafe measures proposed were not undertaken.

Unfortunately, in this instance, the developer was not forthcoming with their pledge and caused a series of delays, so we instead supported the property manager to find alternative means of funding for the life-critical safety remediations to meet the requirements of the Building Safety Act 2022.

Utilising our own report and the expertise of our fire engineering and building surveying teams, we helped to secure an alternative settlement offer from the building’s construction warranty provider that protected the leaseholder’s best interests while ensuring remediation proposals were carried out to provide a safe and fully compliant building.

We must remember the ultimate goal is to obtain a Building Assessment Certificate from the Building Safety Regulator.

Many works being undertaken by developers will not meet these requirements.

Be careful.

How is FRC helping clients prepare for the October 2023 registration deadline?

It’s important to me and FRC that the new legislation is a success that prevents fire disasters in high-rise and medium-rise buildings in the future.

We can provide an end-to-end solution to get them completely prepared for the October deadline, in which we guide and manage the whole process, step by step, to ensure all requirements are met and that the building is safe.

We also know that not everyone wants such a comprehensive service and have developed various single products to help people with only the advice they need, whether that is an abbreviated site inspection, a safety case report or a gap analysis to help them get back on track.

This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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