In the years following Grenfell Tower, there have been momentous changes and updates to fire safety regulations in the UK. Landlords and building owners must keep abreast of these changes if they are to avoid the risks associated with non-compliance. For example, the Building Safety Act (2022) now runs alongside the Fire Safety Act. This Act created an independent body, the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), that will be established by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
These changes, including those that came into force in January and those forecasted for 1st October 2023, are designed to compel owners and building managers to deliver a more in-depth, transparent overview of building conditions. Buildings must be registered with the BSR, and responsible persons are required to share fire safety information with their local Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA).
One theme that permeates recent regulations is the golden thread approach. This emphasises the importance of record-keeping and transparency on matters related to fire safety. This serves as evidence that those deemed responsible have taken all necessary steps to reduce the risk of fire in their building throughout its lifecycle.
This article acts as an introductory guide, outlining exactly who is responsible for fire safety in a building based on 2023 regulations. Furthermore, this article will define the rights of relevant authorities to enforce fire safety legislation.
Do the fire safety regulations apply to my building?
These regulations apply to a wide range of commercial and residential buildings with multiple occupants. However, there are different requirements and duties for buildings based on factors such as height and risk category:
- General duties: All buildings must be safeguarded against fire damage with clear precautions and safety instructions. These include a bespoke evacuation strategy and the compliant installation of fire doors (which you can learn more about in our guide to fire door regulations).
- Medium-rise buildings: In addition to the above, there are specific fire door requirements for residential buildings over 11 metres in height: communal fire doors must be checked every 3 months, and flat entrance fire doors must be inspected once a year at the very minimum. All records related to fire door inspections should be retained in adherence to the golden thread.
- High-rise buildings: Along with the duties that apply generally and to mid-rise buildings, buildings over 18 metres must also have the correct wayfinding signage. Furthermore, fire protection equipment (e.g. fire extinguishers) must be inspected monthly. Records also need to be kept regarding the design and construction of external walls, alongside in-depth floor and building plans.
A fire risk survey is necessary for all commercial and residential buildings, and this will identify the building’s risk level and inform your steps towards achieving and maintaining compliance.
Who is responsible for enforcing fire safety legislation in 2023?
One of the purposes of the new regulations is to promote transparent cooperation between the different bodies responsible for fire safety in the UK. The primary source of enforcement is the Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA) in your local area. If you are unsure as to where your FRA is based, you can either contact your nearest fire service or consult the National Fire Chief’s Council website.
FRA inspectors are the primary contact for fire safety legislation enforcement in your building, and they are permitted to carry out the following:
Entering premises to carry out an inspection, identifying those responsible for maintaining fire safety protocol, and gaining both their compliance and assistance in carrying out the inspection where necessary.
Evaluating the level of compliance with guidelines on how fire safety information should be shared. This includes supplying the FRA with building and floor plans, documentation regarding the installation of fire safety systems, and records of appropriate maintenance and repairs over the building’s life cycle.
Taking material samples from premises to ascertain their safety or flammability. If these tests find any materials to be unsafe, inspectors can order them to be dismantled, destroyed, or tested further. This can include external building cladding (most notably metal cladding with an unmodified polyethene filler), reactive chemicals or gases, or other high-risk materials identified in the fire risk assessment.
Who is responsible for fire safety in residential and commercial buildings?
Fire safety in commercial buildings is the duty of those in control of the premises, known as the responsible person. This can be the landlord or building owner, or a separate individual designated as the responsible person.
The responsible person is required to implement and maintain fire safety standards in commercial and residential buildings, including workplaces, Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) and flats.
Under the new legislation, these duties have expanded and become more detailed. Here are some examples of fire safety regulations for responsible persons in all residential and commercial buildings:
Registration with the BSR
From April to October 2023, all existing buildings have to be registered with the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), and all new buildings must be registered before occupation. The BSR will require a safety case report from the responsible person to show that they have undergone a fire risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to control these risks.
The responsible person needs to provide fire safety instructions and information on fire doors for commercial and residential buildings. This includes workplaces and multi-occupied residential buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises. They must also provide residents with a fire strategy plan. This plan consists of instructions for reporting a fire and what to do in case of a fire, based on the evacuation strategy for the building.
Fire door checks
For residential and commercial buildings above 11m, the responsible person is now required to perform annual checks on private or individual entrance doors (which are now required to be fire doors) and quarterly checks on all fire doors in the common areas. They must also provide fire safety instructions and fire door information to residents.
Passive fire protection and fire stopping
The responsible person needs to maintain appropriate fire stopping for walls, floors, and cavity barriers. This includes being aware of any potential compartment breaches carried out by external contractors such as electricians or plumbers. Any breaches could compromise existing fire stopping measures, so landlords must be proactive in identifying signs of damage or wear and tear.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Smoke alarms should be installed and maintained on every floor in a building. Furthermore, any room which contains a solid fuel-burning appliance (such as a wood-burning stove or a coal fire) must be monitored using a carbon monoxide alarm. While these alarms should be checked regularly, the minimum requirement is for alarms to be tested at the start of every new tenancy.
Secure information box
For residential and commercial buildings that are at least 18m tall or have seven or more storeys, the responsible person is required to install and maintain a secure information box containing their contact information and relevant floor plans. They have to also provide up-to-date electronic floor plans to the local Fire & Rescue Service and inform them of any risks and mitigating steps taken.
Fire system assessment
Monthly checks on firefighting lifts and evacuation lifts need to be performed, and the functionality of other key firefighting equipment must be verified. Any defects found during checks must be reported to the local Fire and Rescue Service as soon as possible if not fixed within 24 hours. Records of the outcome of checks must also be made available to residents.
CLM Fireproofing has worked over the last 34 years to establish itself as the UK’s market leader in passive fire protection. By employing expert FIRAS-accredited installers, as well as being an active member of the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP), we remain passionate about fire protection, safety, and compliance. Want to find out more about our specialist passive fire protection services? Contact our team of specialists today.