On January 23rd, 2023, The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 will come into force. These new regulations set out a number of updates to the requirements for responsible persons (RP) of high-rise buildings.
Before the new regulations are introduced, let’s take a look a look at their significance. We’ll also give you an overview of what you need to do to prepare for the changes.
Why have the new fire safety regulations 2022 come into force?
Fire safety has been a much-talked-about topic in the past couple of years after it was put firmly under the microscope in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. The long-running inquiry into that fateful event has since been instrumental in the development of new regulations that seek to ensure the safety of high-rise building occupants once and for all.
After the Fire Safety Act 2021 received Royal Assent in April 2021, amending the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, fire safety in England and Wales drastically improved. Perhaps one key area of the regulatory improvements was in the identification of “responsible persons”, known as RPs, for multi-occupied residential buildings.
Specific instructions about the management and reduction of fire risks in the structure and external cladding of the building, among other things, became a requirement for those deemed responsible persons. However, in Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s own words, the “process of implementing changes hasn’t been either as quick or as complete as it should be.”
In order to further outline and strengthen the requirements for responsible persons, The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 have now been introduced, ushering in a new phase of fire safety for building occupants across the country.
Speaking about the new regulations, Building and Fire Safety Minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “We have introduced the biggest improvements to building safety in a generation, under the Building Safety Act. These changes will support our tough new regulatory regime – ensuring fire safety measures are incorporated into new high-rise homes and all new residential buildings meet the same safety standards.”
What is a high-rise building?
As the Grenfell Tower inquiry recommendations focused heavily on high-rise buildings, there has been some debate as to what constitutes a high-rise. As such, the regulations set out a definition of these buildings.
According to the regulations, high-rise buildings are 18 metres, or at least seven storeys high.
The government states that fire-fighting tactics change at this height, and building standards also become much more restrictive, so the regulations now enforce the sharing of information about the building so that Fire and Rescue Services are able to respond to the most complex fires, as and when they occur.
Regardless of the residential building’s height, the government has stated that all blocks of flats and multi-occupied residential buildings will be given similar instructions about fire safety, so tenants and occupants feel just as safe in their own homes.
What must responsible persons do according to the new fire safety regulations?
As we mentioned, the responsible person, sometimes referred to as a duty holder, is someone responsible for the safety of all people who use “regulated premises”, such as a high-rise building.
Normally this is a building owner or a building manager. The government has issued guidance to help identify who the responsible person is, with many of the duties set out in the regulations identifying them as the person with the most responsibility for ensuring fire safety.
The requirements now make it mandatory for responsible persons of multi-occupancy residential buildings to carry out specific actions. Some of the provisions, for example, apply no matter the height of the building. Along with the sharing of information, the responsible person must provide the following:
- Fire safety instructions to their residents
- Information about the importance and proper use of fire doors
Buildings over 11 and 18 metres
Once a building reaches 11 metres in height, responsible persons must then conduct annual and quarterly fire door inspections. Entrance doors must be inspected annually, while all common area fire doors must be inspected quarterly. This is welcome news for many, not least The Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS), which recently found that three-quarters of fire doors are not up to standard.
At 18 metres in height, responsible persons must provide their local Fire and Rescue Service with up-to-date, digital floor plans for the buildings, with a hard copy and a building plan identifying fire fighting equipment in a secure information box on site.
Speaking about these changes, The National Fire Chief’s Council Protection and Business Safety Committee Chair, Gavin Tomlinson, said the NFCC supports the inclusion of Secure Information Boxes, as it gives “fire and rescue services access to important details about a building and its residents in the event of a fire.”
In addition to the above, responsible persons must also:
- Provide information about the design and materials of the high-rise building and the level of risk of those materials
- Undertake monthly lift inspections to ensure they are all functional, reporting any defects to their local Fire and Rescue Service immediately
- Install wayfinding signage that is visible in low light, identifying flat and floor numbers in the stairwells.
How should responsible persons prepare for the new fire safety regulations?
With new regulations imminent, it’s now in the hands of responsible persons to prepare their building and adhere to the requirements. Some bodies are working with the government to develop a set of standardised templates that make information sharing between responsible persons and Fire and Rescue Services easier and more consistent.
Aside from that, responsible persons are now strongly encouraged to start forming fire risk assessment review strategies, taking into account the amended Fire Safety Order, using the guidance provided. Once the requisite information has been collected, responsible persons should share it with their local Fire and Rescue Service as per the Home Office guidance.
In addition to this, responsible persons should ensure they’ve met all the requirements outlined for their building height, including the installation of wayfinding signage and a secure information box for the hard copy of the building’s floor plan.
Fire Safety: Frequently Asked Questions
Why were the changes implemented?
Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, an inquiry was set up, offering several recommendations to protect residents of high-rise developments. These recommendations formed part of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.
Do these changes apply to other parts of the UK?
While the act applies to England and Wales, the new fire safety regulations only apply to England. The Welsh Government website has information on how the act will impact fire safety in Wales.
When will the regulations come into force?
The Regulations will come into force on January 23rd, 2023 and are being introduced under Article 24 of the Fire Safety Order.
What is the Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool?
The Protection Policy and Reform Unit of the National Fire Chief’s Council have supported the Home Office Task and Finish Group with the development of a Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool (FRAPT). It’s an online tool that helps responsible persons develop a fire safety strategy in line with the new regulations.