Earlier this year, a new bill passed through the parliament’s approval process to officially become a law – The Fire Safety Act 2021. Originally introduced in March 2020, the Fire Safety Act became an Act of Parliament in April of this year. Its main purpose is to improve the fire safety of buildings by providing an update to the framework, which governs the fire safety process.
What does the Fire Safety Act 2021 mean?
The Fire Safety Act consists of three major new clauses, which work in addition to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. In short, the clauses aim to define the responsibility of duty-holders and building owners and introduce a framework for holding responsible parties accountable in the case of a fire that could have been prevented. According to the new bill, the responsible persons in a building must manage the fire risk for:
- The structure and external walls of the building (such as cladding, balconies, and windows)
- Entrance doors to individual flats that open into communal areas
In situations where an incident happens due to a lack of fire safety precautions, the responsible person for the premises can be held legally liable for any fire safety issues. This new addition to current legislation forces the responsible parties to act in a timely manner to prevent accidents. Additionally, it aims to create a thread of accountability that can be referred to in an incident.
How to ensure compliance with the new bill?
To begin with, an updated Fire Risk Assessment will need to be carried out for any premises that fall into the scope of the new bill. Although the act was conceived as a response to fire safety issues in high-rise buildings, it also applies to any building containing two or more domestic units. Due to the number of buildings that will require an updated fire risk assessment, there may be a shortage of risk assessors across England and Wales. The new Fire Safety Act requires assessors to have access to the balconies and doors of occupants, which is likely to prolong the assessment process further.
Another key point is defining the responsible person within a building. In the majority of cases, this is the duty-holder or, for residential buildings with multiple occupants – the building owner. This guidance was set out by the Home Office to avoid confusion and help responsible parties understand who is accountable for fire safety.
To sum it all up, building owners and duty-holders must understand who the responsible person with the premises is. Following this, they need to either create or update their Fire Risk Assessment in line with the Fire Safety Act and all previous regulations. You can read more about the topic in our extended Fire Safety Guide for Businesses.