The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (the Regulations) are due to come into force on 23 January 2023. The Regulations apply to all residential buildings in England, although their requirements differ depending on the height of the building.
We examine below the duties imposed by the Regulations on the Responsible Person – and how these duties differ for the three building categories specified – as well as touching on some of the detailed information set out in this recently published Government guidance note (the Guidance) concerning the Regulations.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the Fire Safety Order) regulates fire safety in non-domestic premises, including workplaces and the non-domestic parts of multi-occupied residential buildings. Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the recommendations set out in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report, the Fire Safety Act 2021 was passed: this clarified that the scope of the Fire Safety Order includes the structure, external walls, and individual flat entrance doors of multi-occupied residential buildings.
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 have been introduced to expand the duties of Responsible Persons for multi-occupied residential buildings, as well as ensuring that:
- fire and rescue services (FRS) have the information they need to provide an effective operational response in the event of a fire; and
- residents have adequate and accurate instructions on how to remain safe in the event of a fire.
Who is the Responsible Person under the new Regulations?
The Responsible Person for the purposes of the Regulations is as defined in the Fire Safety Order. The Order broadly defines "Responsible Person" as the person who has control of the premises as occupier or otherwise. Thus, the Responsible Person could be a building owner, leaseholder or tenant, or an employer in relation to a workplace (provided the workplace is "to any extent" under its control). In some cases there will be more than one Responsible Person in respect of a building.
To which buildings do the Regulations apply?
The Regulations apply to all buildings in England that contain two or more domestic premises, including the residential parts of mixed-use buildings. This will principally relate to blocks of flats, but also includes student accommodation, and the Regulations apply regardless of whether the flats are subject to long leases or are rented; or used to accommodate the general public or a particular group of people, such as sheltered housing. The Regulations do not apply to military premises or to domestic premises within the House of Commons, nor do they apply to hotels.
What are the duties of the Responsible Person under the Regulations:
In relation to all residential buildings?
The Responsible Person for any building which contains two or more domestic premises and common parts through which residents would need to evacuate is required by the Regulations to display fire safety instructions in a conspicuous part of the building. These instructions must cover, amongst other things, the evacuation strategy for the building (e.g. stay put or simultaneous evacuation), instructions on how to report a fire, and any other instructions that tell residents what they must do when a fire has occurred.
The Responsible Person must also provide required information to residents about fire doors to the effect that fire doors should be shut when not in use, residents should not tamper with fire doors and should report any faults immediately.
In relation to residential buildings over 11 metres?
In respect of all residential buildings containing two or more domestic premises and above 11 metres in height (typically five storeys or more), the Responsible Person must also undertake annual checks on flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in communal areas.
In relation to high-rise residential buildings (i.e. over 18 metres)?
The majority of the additional duties set out in the Regulations relate to high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs). The definition of HRRBs aligns with that used in the Building Safety Act 2022 for a "higher risk building", i.e. that contains two or more domestic premises and is at least 18 metres in height or has seven or more storeys.
In addition to the duties set out in the two sections above, Responsible Persons in respect of HRRBs must also:
provide the local FRS with an electronic record of the design of the external walls of the building, including details of the materials from which they are constructed. This must include details of the level of risk to which the design and materials of the external walls gives rise, as identified in the fire risk assessment that the Responsible Person is required by the Fire Safety Order to carry out - as well as any mitigating steps taken - and must be updated if there are any significant changes to the external walls.
The Guidance notes that a code of practice for fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding has been published by the British Standards Institution as PAS 9980. The Guidance also includes a template for use in preparing this electronic record of the design and materials of external walls.
install and maintain a secure information box that will contain information required by the FRS in the event of a fire;
provide the local FRS with up-to-date electronic floor plans and a building plan identifying the location of all lifts and key fire-fighting equipment, which must be kept up-to-date, and place hard copies of these in the secure information box referred to above;
undertake monthly checks of, and rectify any faults identified in, all lifts for use by firefighters, evacuation lifts and essential fire-fighting equipment within the building; and
provide and maintain wayfinding signage to assist fire and rescue service crews.
The Guidance mentioned above includes further detail on the new duties which may assist those acting as Responsible Person under the Fire Safety Order.
Whilst the role of Responsible Person for the purposes of the Regulations and the Fire Safety Order is separate from, and stems from different legislation to the role of "Accountable Person" / "Principal Accountable Person" under the Building Safety Act 2022, it could be reasonably expected that the obligations owed by an Accountable Person (or specifically a Principal Accountable Person) in respect of HRRBs will include (but not be limited to) all of those required by a Responsible Person.
If you have any questions about this article, please get in touch with Sue Ryan, Gemma Whittaker or Sean Garbutt.