The Fire Safety Bill was introduced in March 2020 following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. After much discussion and debate around the adequacy of current fire safety legislation the Fire Safety Bill was made law on 29 April 2021 and is now known as the Fire Safety Act 2021.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 closes the loophole that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 overlooked some 16 years ago.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 – in summary
- The external walls of a building, the fire doors to individual flats and those located in common areas are to be assessed as part of the requirement for a fire risk assessment on any given building.
- From now on (in England and Wales), the ‘Responsible Person’ has a legal responsibility to commission a fire risk assessment with these points being considered.
- It applies to all multi-occupied residential buildings and is not dependent on the height of the building; and
- It allows the Fire and Rescue Service to enforce against non–compliance in relation to the external walls and the individual doors opening onto the common parts of the premises.
Importantly, the Fire Safety Act also introduces the concept of ‘risk-based guidance’ in order to support a proportionate approach towards assessing the structure, external walls, flat entrance doors and other doors adjacent to common parts that provide (or line) escape routes from multi-occupied residential buildings in buildings which contain two or more domestic premises.
Complying with the new Fire Safety Act
If a building owner or manager can show compliance with the risk-based guidance (once that guidance is made available), then that will be an indication that the Fire Safety Order has not been breached. It follows that the opposite scenario will be indicated where any failure in terms of compliance is demonstrated.
Are the changes effective immediately?
Although the Bill received Royal Assent in April, it is yet to come into force and be a legal requirement. The risk-based guidance is not yet finalised, having only just closed for consultation on 20 May 2021.
The final guidance is due to be published in September 2021 and once finalised and published, Responsible Persons should familiarise themselves with the new risk-based guidance so they fully understand what is required of them, assess what action is necessary and demonstrate compliance with the law if the Fire Service ask.
Consequences of failing to comply
If a Responsible Person fails to follow the risk-based guidance, in the worst case scenario they could face criminal prosecution and an unlimited fine.
Action you should take now
Whilst the Act isn’t yet in force, you should review your Fire Risk Assessments to make sure they cover the external walls and individual entrance doors, bringing your fire risk assessment in line with the proposed Act.