FAQs Surrounding Fire Safety & The Building Safety Act 2022
Our Fire Consultants provide insights and address some of the frequently asked questions surrounding fire safety and the recent changes to the Building Safety Act 2022.
Q#1 I have less than 5 employees do I need a written fire risk assessment?
Yes, effective from October 1 the Building Safety Act: Section 156 mandates all responsible persons (such as employers) to record a full comprehensive fire risk assessment for non-domestic premises, including workplaces and communal areas of multi-occupied residential buildings (e.g., communal corridors, stairways, and plant rooms). Individual domestic premises are exempt from this requirement.
Q#2 Does my building need a fire strategy?
If there has been an alteration that constitutes a ‘material’ change or a new building, the contractor must issue a fire strategy under regulation 38 of the Building Act. This is especially recommended for older, large, complex buildings or those with a fire-engineered solution. However, if the fire risk assessment deems this is needed it can be a significant finding issued under this process which falls under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.
Q#3 Do I need to test my equipment to a British Standard?
British Standards carry no legislative force but are important for maintaining fire safety equipment under Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. Using a standard, such as a British Standard, is a practical way to assess and maintain fire precautions like fire alarms. However, other standards or even self-created standards can be used if they can be justified and relate to a standard or its equivalent. Many people choose to follow a standard or manufacturer’s instructions for simplicity and efficiency.
Q#4 Why do I need to test my fire alarm every week?
As stated above, this is a standard that can be deviated from with proper justification. However, the test serves multiple purposes:
- To ensure the alarm is audible throughout the area it covers.
- To familiarise individuals in the building with the sound of the fire alarm.
- To verify the functionality of the alarm as a crucial component of fire precautions and procedures.
The testing period is intentionally brief to ensure its full functionality.
Q#5 Can I prop my fire door open?
Do not prop open fire doors unless you have a valid reason and can demonstrate appropriate management. For instance, if your office is excessively hot and you need ventilation, you may open the door, but you must remain in that area and be prepared to safely remove the prop in case of a fire or fire alarm prior to leaving the building. Propping open fire doors can lead to personal prosecution (as well as the responsible person) if a fire spreads beyond the door. Additionally, do not use a fire extinguisher to prop the door open as to remove one is also an offense.
Q#6 Have there been changes to the Fire Safety Law?
Yes, in February, the Fire Safety England Regulations were introduced for residential premises in England and as of 1 October 2023, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order was amended by the Building Safety Act.
Q#7 What does this mean for managing residential buildings?
The changes are quite extensive when it comes to registration, information sharing, and keeping.
Here’s a brief overview:
Under the new laws, the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will regulate high-rise buildings. These are buildings with seven or more storeys or that are 18 metres or higher, and either:
- Have at least two residential units
- Are hospitals or care homes (during design and construction)
From 1 October 2023, all these buildings must be registered with the BSR which will serve as the new building control authority for them.
Responsible persons in a higher-risk building must identify and cooperate with the Accountable Person/s as mandated by the Building Safety Act 2022.
An Accountable Person is someone who has the responsibility to repair or maintain anything under leasehold. Responsible Persons in multi-occupied residential buildings must provide residents with “relevant fire safety matters”, including:
- A reminder of what the evacuation strategy is for that building
- Any other instruction that tells residents what they must do once a fire has occurred, based on the building’s evacuation strategy.
- The risks that have been identified in the fire risk assessment – new
- The preventive and protective measures – new
- The name and UK address of the Responsible Person as well as the identity of any person appointed to assist with making or reviewing the fire risk assessment – new
It would be advisable to contact your fire safety advisor for more specific details as the requirements will vary depending on the height of your building.
Q#8 What changes have been made to the Fire Safety Order?
Documenting & Recording Requirements:
- All Responsible Persons must document their fire risk assessment findings, regardless of premises size or purpose.
- All Responsible Persons must record their fire safety arrangements, including procedures and policies.
- All Responsible Persons must record the identity of the individual employed or contracted to undertake or review any of the fire risk assessments.
- When appointing someone to assist with or evaluate your fire risk assessment, ensure they are competent, meaning they have adequate training, experience, or knowledge (recommend third-party accredited).
Cooperation and coordination
- All Responsible Persons must now have a UK-based address where they, or someone on their behalf will accept notices and other documentation.
- All Responsible Persons must now make sure they identify and make themselves known to any other Responsible Persons at the same premises.
- Any departing Responsible Persons must take reasonable steps to share all relevant fire safety information with the incoming Responsible Persons.
Other Changes to the Fire Safety Order
The Building Safety Act 2022 also introduces the following changes to the Fire Safety Order, including:
- Increased fines for certain offences.
- Section 156 of the Building Safety Act reinforces the significance of all Article 50 guidance. This means that a court may take whether you comply with Article 50 guidance into account when establishing whether there was a breach of the Fire Safety Order.
If you have any further questions in relation to fire safety or legislation changes, please contact one of our fire experts today