Updated UK fire safety regulations emphasise role of Responsible Persons

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A close look at the updated fire safety responsibilities

The United Kingdom government has released new guidance on fire safety, affecting non-domestic premises where people work, stay, or visit, such as workplaces and the communal areas of multi-occupied residential buildings.

The full guidance is available on the government’s website.

Primary enforcing bodies maintain their roles

The primary enforcing bodies for the Fire Safety Order remain the local fire and rescue authorities, the Health and Safety Executive, the Defence Fire Safety Regulator, and the Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate, depending on the nature and occupancy of the building.

Changes to Responsible Persons’ duties under the Building Safety Act 2022

The Building Safety Bill was given Royal Assent in April 2022, becoming the Building Safety Act 2022. The legislation amends the Fire Safety Order and introduces a slew of new requirements for responsible persons.

Key among these changes is the increased emphasis on recording: completed fire risk assessments, contact information, fire safety arrangements, and the identity of any individual or organisation involved in undertaking or reviewing fire risk assessments.

Responsible persons are now required to share relevant fire safety information with incoming responsible persons.

For buildings housing two or more sets of domestic premises, responsible persons must provide residents with easily understandable fire safety information.

The act also strengthens the status of statutory guidance issued under Article 50 of the Fire Safety Order and introduces higher fines for some offences.

The need for competence in fire risk assessments

It’s worth noting that under the new legislation, if a responsible person appoints someone to conduct or review the fire risk assessment, that person must be competent.

The competent person should have enough training, experience, or knowledge to carry out the task effectively.

Duties of responsible persons in multi-occupied premises

In multi-occupancy commercial buildings, the responsibility does not lie solely with individual businesses. The landlord or a managing agent, who has overall responsibility for safety within the building, is also considered a responsible person. Responsible persons must collaborate, sharing names, UK addresses, and the extent of their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order.

Cooperation between Responsible and Accountable Persons

In higher-risk residential buildings, responsible persons must identify and cooperate with accountable persons for the sake of fire safety.

This cooperation helps to facilitate a whole building approach to fire safety, making use of the Golden Thread of Building Information required in all new higher-risk residential buildings.

Information transfer for incoming responsible persons

Existing responsible persons are also required to provide incoming responsible persons with all relevant fire safety information.

If contact details for the incoming responsible person are unknown, it is advised to provide the necessary information to the building owner or manager.

Amplifying resident engagement and understanding of fire safety

The changes to the Fire Safety Order necessitate providing residents of multi-occupancy buildings with detailed fire safety information. This helps the residents feel more informed and involved in fire safety measures within their building.

IFSJ Comment

The Building Safety Act 2022 has increased the level of fines for certain offences under the Fire Safety Order.

It also strengthened the status of all Article 50 guidance, helping to establish whether there was a breach of the Fire Safety Order during court proceedings.

This news is crucial for all those who own, manage, or operate buildings in the UK, as it underlines the significance of thorough documentation, enhanced cooperation, and transparency in maintaining fire safety.

The regulations highlight the UK Government’s commitment to safeguarding residents and workers by improving fire safety across the country.

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