The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (the “Regulations”), implementing the majority of the recommendations made to the Government following phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, come into force on Monday 23 January 2023.
The Regulations, which are made under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the "Fire Safety Order"), impose significant new obligations on those responsible for the management of multi-unit residential buildings in England (i.e. the Responsible Person under the Fire Safety Order - please see here for further guidance).
Importantly, the Regulations will apply, to some extent, to all multi-unit residential buildings in England, with the range and nature of the obligations on the Responsible Person increasing as the height of the relevant building increases. The complete Regulations can be viewed here, however in summary:
All Multi-Unit Residential Buildings
In relation to any residential building containing two or more sets of domestic premises and shared common parts, the Responsible Person must:
- Fire safety instructions: display fire safety instructions which include instructions in respect of the building’s evacuation plan, how to report a fire to the Fire and Rescue Service and any other instructions for the residents to follow in the event of a fire. The Responsible Person must provide a copy of the instructions to new residents of the building as soon as reasonably practicable upon their moving in and re-issue these instructions to all existing residents at periods not exceeding 12 months; and
- Fire doors: provide information to the residents regarding the importance of fire doors in relation to fire safety including that they should be kept shut when not in use, self-closing devices should not be modified and that any faults or damage to doors should be reported to the Responsible Person immediately. The same timescales apply for providing this information as detailed above for fire safety instructions.
Residential Buildings Over 11 Metres
In addition to the base obligations above, under the Regulations, the Responsible Person for a multi-unit residential building above 11 metres in height must use their best endeavours to perform a check of the fire doors at the entrance of each domestic premises in the building at least once a year. A record of steps taken to comply with this duty must be kept. In addition, at least every 3 months, checks of fire doors in communal areas must be completed.
Residential Buildings Over 18 Metres
Under the Regulations, the Responsible Person for a multi-unit residential building over 18 metres in height will be required to satisfy the following supplementary obligations:
- Secure information box: install and maintain a secure information box in or on their building containing relevant names and contact details and all other hard copy documents required under the Regulations. The information box must in a readily accessible position for the local Fire and Rescue Service who must also be provided with anything required to access the box. In addition, the Responsible Person must inspect the box at least annually;
- External wall system: prepare a record of the design and materials of the external wall system and level of risk this gives rise to (and any mitigating steps taken). The record must be updated if there are any significant changes to the external walls;
- Plans: prepare a plan for each floor, together with a single page building plan, and place hard copy versions of both in the secure information box (updating these as required);
- Checks: complete monthly checks on the operation of lifts intended for fire fighter usage and evacuation lifts, as well as checking the functionality of other fire fighting equipment. A record of the checks must be made available to residents;
- Defects: take steps to rectify faults in lifts/fire fighter equipment and, as soon as possible after detecting a defect which cannot be resolved in 24 hours, report this to the local Fire and Rescue Service and report back to them electronically once resolved; and
- Signage: install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions that identifies flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of relevant buildings.
Burges Salmon Comment
The implementation of the Regulations marks another significant, and welcome, step in the overhaul of England's fire safety regime and will, it is to be hoped, result in real and tangible improvements in fire safety in residential buildings (and avoid another Grenfell Tower fire tragedy).
While the Regulations are intended to be proportionate to the risk associated with the height of different buildings, the Regulations impose significant new obligations on those responsible for the management of high-rise residential buildings. Such Responsible Persons will quickly need to ensure that they have taken appropriate steps to comply with the Regulations or face the risk of fines and/or imprisonment under the Fire Safety Order.
If you would like any advice in relation to the Regulations, or building safety more generally, please contact Tom Weld.
This article was written by Tom Weld and Kayla Urbanski.