After 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire (the highest number of fatalities in a residential blaze since the Second World War), the government established an inquiry force to determine what could be done to prevent fires from breaking out in other high-rise tower blocks. The first report from this inquiry was published in October 2019. It contained several recommendations to the government that required legislative changes before they could be implemented. The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, which come into force in January 2023, implement most of the recommendations made by the inquiry.
This blog summarises changes to the legislation and outlines the legal responsibilities of responsible persons (RPs) under Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.
Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 make it a legal requirement for responsible persons of high-rise buildings to supply Fire and Rescue Services with information that will assist them in planning and, if necessary, providing an effective operational response in the event of an emergency.
The incoming updates to the legislation also require responsible persons in multiple occupancy residential tower blocks and those over 11 metres in height to provide additional safety measures.
In all multiple occupancy residences in England, these regulations require responsible persons to provide residents with fire safety instructions and information on the importance of fire doors.
From January 2023, as a responsible person for a high-rise block of flats, you must take the following steps to ensure compliance with Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022:
- Building Plans: provide their local Fire and Rescue Service with up-to-date electronic building floor plans and to place a hard copy of these plans, alongside a single-page building plan which identifies key firefighting equipment, in a secure information box on site.
- External Wall Systems: provide their local Fire and Rescue Service information about the design and materials of a high-rise building’s external wall system and inform the Fire and Rescue Service of any material changes to these walls. Also, they will be required to provide information in relation to the level of risk that the design and materials of the external wall structure give rise to and any mitigating steps that are taken.
- Lifts and other Key Fire-Fighting Equipment: undertake monthly checks on the operation of lifts intended for use by firefighters, and evacuation lifts in their building and check the functionality of other key pieces of firefighting equipment. They will also be required to report any defective lifts or equipment to their local Fire and Rescue Service as soon as possible after detection if the fault cannot be fixed within 24 hours, and to record the outcome of checks and make them available to residents.
- Information Boxes: install and maintain a secure information box in their building. This box must contain the name and contact details of the Responsible Person and hard copies of the building floor plans.
- Wayfinding Signage: to install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions that identify flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of relevant buildings.
Responsible Person: Definition
The government defines the responsible person as the person who is responsible for the safety of themselves and others who use a regulated premises.
Typically, this is the building owner, or in residential properties, any other person in control of the premises. The responsible person is responsible for ensuring compliance with regulations in the Fire Safety Order 2022.
For a full breakdown of your responsibilities as a responsible person, visit the Government website.
Regulation 9 covers fire safety instructions to residents. Under the updated legislation, the RP must display fire safety instructions (including evacuation procedures, how to report a fire to fire services, and any other information relevant to your fire safety plan) in communal areas. Additionally, they must distribute copies of these instructions:
- To all building residents within 12 months of the regulations starting;
- To all new residents as soon as reasonably practicable after they move in; and
- To all residents annually.
Regulation 9 states, “These instructions will be provided to residents upon a change and on an annual basis to ensure that residents always have up-to-date information and an annual refresher when there is no change.”
Any changes to fire safety instructions for your building must be displayed prominently in communal areas, and copies should be given to all residents before these changes come into effect.
Regulation 10 refers to the legislation concerning fire doors in regulated buildings. The responsible person must provide residents with information about all fire doors within the building, whether they are located in individual dwellings or communal areas. This information must cover the following points and be distributed in line with the regulations set out in Section 9:
- All fire doors must be kept closed when not in use;
- Residents and guests must not tamper with any self-closing devices;
- Residents should report any faults or damages to the fire doors to the responsible person immediately.
Buildings above 11 m
Further regulations apply in buildings that exceed 11 metres in height and contain two or more sets of domestic premises. In these cases, the responsible person must:
- Check fire doors in communal areas at least every three months;
- Endeavour to check the fire doors at the entrances of individual domestic premises annually;
- Keep a record of compliance; if access is not granted within 12 months, record the steps they took to try and gain access.
Are you fire safety ready?
Don’t leave compliance to chance. Failure to follow Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 from January 2023 could result in fines or a custodial sentence – not to mention a tragic loss of life. If you are not sure about your responsibilities as an RP, get in touch with Dorset Fire Protection. Even if your building is not 11m or higher, it is prudent to be aware of the increased focus on fire door inspections and adequate premises information for the fire brigade, since this is likely to be the spotlight in all premises inspections. We offer comprehensive fire risk assessments and fire safety training tailored to your specific requirements.