The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 are to be introduced as a way of implementing the recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. These regulations will come into force on 23 January 2023. It follows the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021 which is designed to protect the public from risk of fire, by better supporting compliance and effective enforcement in all multi-occupied premises.
The regulations will further support the Fire Safety Order 2005 and Fire Safety Act 2021 by clarifying how the responsible person(s) of residential buildings will assist the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), by providing the FRS with information that can help plan and, if needed, provide an effective operational response in the event of a fire.
It also specifies additional safety measures that need to be undertaken by responsible person(s) which includes providing residents with fire safety instructions and information on the importance of fire doors.
What will be required of all high-rise buildings over 18m?
Floor Plans and Building Plans
These plans will assist quick and critical decisions taken by operational fire fighters during a fire incident. They will need to be kept up-to-date and supplied to the local Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) electronically. A hard copy format alongside a single page building plan which identifies key firefighting equipment, such as dry risers and emergency gas shut off valves, will also need to be kept in a secure information box on site.
These secure information boxes are required at all existing high-rise buildings. These boxes present identifiable repositories for documents intended for use by FRS during a fire incident, made accessible by key or key code.
Whilst the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 will require responsible person(s) to proactively send the FRS relevant information electronically, there is still a practical use for the FRS to have this information available in hard copy. This allows the first attending crews to be able to understand the layout of the building and to respond effectively by being able to access these plans, as an actual fire is taking place, without having to rely on technology.
An information box can be installed internally or externally on-site and there are number of options on the market that can be adapted to the specifications of a residential property.
External Wall Systems
Information on the building’s external wall system is also required for existing high-rise buildings and should include its design and material. This will forewarn the FRS and enable them to plan for incidents accordingly.
Further information should also be given on the level of risk associated to the external wall structure and the steps that have been taken to mitigate these risks. This is useful for both operational and fire safety inspection purposes.
Future builds may not require this information as this should be part of the building control sign off process, but information may still need to be provided to the FRS.
Lifts and other Key Fire-Fighting Equipment
Any lifts (including evacuation lifts) within a building that are designed to be used by fire fighters, as well as the mechanism which allows fire fighters to take control of lifts, must be checked on a monthly basis. This also incorporates key fire-fighting equipment.
Where defects have been established, signs must be placed on or by defective lifts and fire-fighting equipment. If the issue takes more than 24 hours to resolve, it has to be electronically reported to the local Fire and Rescue Service. This will then allow the FRS to plan accordingly, before arriving at a fire incident. These outcomes must also be made available to residents in an open and transparent way.
Although this will be a legal requirement for buildings over 11m, this could also prove effective in all multi-occupied buildings, as visible wayfinding signage in low light or smoky conditions.
What is required for residential buildings with storeys over 11 metres in height?
The Fire Safety Act 2021 has removed the legal ambiguity and confirms that flat entrance doors are in scope of the Fire Safety Order. It will be necessary for responsible person(s) to undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of communal doors in multi-occupied residential buildings above and below 11m.
Although residential blocks below 11m are not specifically referenced in the upcoming regulations, there will still be an onus on the responsible person(s) to ensure that all fire doors within a multi-occupied block are adequate and there are no signs of any obvious damage or issues, and to also ensure that the doors are able to provide adequate protection. Realistically, this can only be achieved through routine inspections undertaken by a competent person and a specialist may need to be engaged with.
What is required of all multi-occupied residential buildings?
Fire Door Information
Once regular checks of the doors to flat entrances and communal areas have been assessed, it is then required for responsible person(s) to provide this information to residents, as well as information on the importance of fire doors in relation to a building’s fire safety. This information should deepen residents’ understanding on how they can keep their building safe from fire, thus encouraging them to allow responsible person(s) access to check their flat entrance doors.
Residents will receive this information when they move into a multi-occupied residential building and then on an annual basis.
Fire Safety Instructions
This requirement will provide residents in all multi-occupied residential buildings with fire safety instructions annually or upon a change. It will inform residents on how to report a fire, the building’s evacuation strategy e.g., ‘stay put’ or ‘simultaneous’ and any other instructions required once a fire has occurred.
Responsible person(s) should consider how best to provide these instructions in a way that residents can understand. This consideration could be made alongside any existing or future resident engagement strategy. Pictorial information could be used as well as face to face engagement to assist residents in their understanding.
These instructions will be displayed in a communal or conspicuous area, where visitors and other relevant persons will also have access to this information.
Are these regulations a proportionate response?
These Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 form part of a package of sensible, risk mitigating fire safety measures. It implements the majority of the Grenfell Tower Phase 1 recommendations which were made on account of the inefficiencies in fire safety protocol of high-rise buildings, such as the lack of on-site information available to London Fire Brigade and the damage and disrepair of fire doors.
Where it has been legislated to introduce new duties on responsible person(s) in medium and low-rise buildings, it has been done so where there is a clear benefit to fire safety in these buildings, such as fire doors.
When the regulations come into force
In order to help responsible person(s) comply with the regulations that will be published later in 2022, guidance has been issued under Article 50 of the Fire Safety Order, ahead of commencement.
This is in the hopes of allowing responsible person(s) the time needed to implement these changes imposed by the regulations and should give a reasonable amount of time to complete.