On 18 May, the government announced its Fire Reform White Paper, which is intended to strengthen the fire service and introduces new requirements for risk assessments of dwellings in blocks of flats.
The changes include the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, bringing into effect provisions of the Fire Safety Act 2021 requiring fire safety risk assessments on blocks of flats, including assessments of the structure, external walls and entrance doors.
Under the regulations, which started on 16 May 2022, ‘responsible persons’ for flats need to ensure that these elements are included in future fire risk assessments, if they are not already included. There are also fact sheets and a simple online tool for prioritising fire risk assessments.
These regulations implement a number of the first-phase Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations1 to deliver fire safety improvements in multi-residential buildings. As well as reinforcing and clarifying the requirements for fire risk assessments of common parts – including structure, façades and fire doors to flats – they require fire and rescue services to be provided with the information they need to plan their response to a fire in a high-rise building.
“The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 impose a minimum frequency for checks on fire doors in mid- and high-rise blocks of flats”
The regulations impose a minimum frequency for checks on all fire doors in mid- and high-rise blocks of flats. Where a responsible person already has a fire risk assessment that includes the structure, external walls and fire doors, they do not need a further assessment until the next periodic review.
As well as commencing sections 1 and 3 of the Fire Safety Act, a 10-week consultation opened on ‘the most comprehensive plans for fire reform in decades’ in its White Paper. These aim to further develop changes to fire and rescue provision introduced since the Grenfell Tower fire, and findings from independent inspection reports on fire and rescue services.
They aim to increase public safety through improved professionalism of fire and rescue services and modern workforce practices, with proposals for a College of Fire and Rescue on similar lines to the College of Policing.
There is also a proposal to improve accountability by transferring fire governance to a single, elected official, overseeing service delivery by operationally independent chief fire officers.
Readers are encouraged to view the consultation and contribute to the CIBSE response (www.cibse.org/consultations).
In all residential buildings with storeys over 11 metres high, responsible persons must undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts.
In all ‘multi-occupied residential buildings’ with two or more domestic premises, responsible persons must provide ‘relevant fire safety instructions’ to residents, including instructions on how to report a fire and what a resident must do once a fire has occurred, based on the evacuation strategy for the building.
They must also provide residents with information relating to the ‘importance of fire doors’ in fire safety.
1 Phase 2 of the inquiry is still hearing evidence and is expected to report in the second half of 2023.