Fire safety legislation is changing!

The Fire Safety Order is the primary Fire Safety legislation in England & Wales, and it applies to all non-domestic premises as well as the communal parts of residential buildings. It requires a ‘Responsible Person’ to manage the risk of fire in a premises.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire the government committed to reforming building safety – and has introduced new legislation in support of this. The Fire Safety Act 2021 confirmed that external walls and flat entrance doors were in scope of the Fire Safety Order – in early 2023 the Fire Safety England regulations introduced new requirements to residential buildings.

The Building Safety Act provides a framework for much wider reform and in England has established the role of the ‘Accountable person’ (who will have overall responsibility for fire safety in higher risk residential premises). From 1st October 2023 new legislation will take effect which will strengthen fire safety in all Fire Safety Order regulated premises.

The main changes to the legislation are:

  1. Increased requirements to record fire risk assessment
  2. It is important that all individuals undertaking fire risk assessment are ‘competent’ – however, this will not become a specific legal requirement until a later date – from October 2023 you need to identify any person involved in completing and reviewing the fire risk assessment.
  3. From October 2023 You will need to record the whole fire risk assessment in full, regardless of the type of building or the size of the business – there will be many premises affected by this change including small business e.g., takeaways, small shops, holiday lets and small blocks of flats.
  • Increased requirements to record fire safety arrangements
  • How you set about your Firefighting arrangements – this may take the form of a Fire safety policy.
  • Enhanced requirements for co-operation and co-ordination between responsible persons
  • There is already a requirement for responsible persons to co-operate – however this does not always happen. From October 2023 you will be required to share information with all Responsible Persons in a building and keep a record of that information.
  • In higher risk buildings there will be a ‘Accountable Person’ – in some buildings this will be the same as the Responsible Person, the Accountable Person has overall responsible for building safety and must consider the risk of structural failure as well as the spread of fire.
  • Ensuring residents have access to fire safety information, including:
  • Risks to residents identified in the fire risk assessment.
  • Measures provided for the safety of occupants.
  • Name and address of responsible person.
  • The identity of all those involved in creating or reviewing the fire risk assessment.
  • The identity of any persons nominated to implement firefighting measures.
  • Any risk to residents identified by other Responsible Persons within the building.

Armed with this information residents will be able to identify issues and raise concerns about fire safety in their building. Residents should feel safer and should be safer too.

The Government has also increased the maximum level of fines for certain offences e.g., failing to comply with a fire authority inspector. As ever, these changes will be regulated and enforced by the Fire Authorities.

The Government has published a range of fire safety guidance documents – if you choose not to follow the guidance duty holders will need to clearly evidence the reasons for not doing so – this evidence may be considered by fire and rescue services and in the event of a prosecution – the Court.

Information on the changes to legislation can be found on the government website www.gov.uk where you can check your fire safety responsibilities under Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022.

Contact the AfterAthena Health and Safety team for advice and support as we can help you to comply with your duties under the Fire Safey Order.