After passing through Parliament last year, the Fire Safety Act 2021 was implemented on 16 May 2022 and takes effect immediately. The Fire Safety (England) regulations arising from it, which bring forward some of the recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, were laid before Parliament on 18 May and will take effect from 23 January 2023.
To accompany these, the Home Office have issued a number of fact sheets to explain the operation of the regulations, as well as guidance on how to implement the Fire Safety Act. Guidance to implement the regulations is expected later in the year.
Here, we share a brief summary of the Act and the regulations, and clarify some of the main points.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 amends the existing Fire Safety Order, to clarify that in buildings with two or more domestic premises, the Order applies to the structure and external walls of the building, and to all doors between the domestic premises and the common parts.
To support the implementation of the Act, the Home Office has issued guidance, which sets out how those responsible can demonstrate compliance with the Act until they have been able to review their buildings’ fire risk assessments to include external walls and doors. The guidance includes a building prioritisation tool, to support those responsible to identify which buildings they should review first. We understand from the Home Office that landlords are compliant with the Act if they are already prioritising buildings according to risk.
Although most of the regulations apply only to high-rise residential buildings, those relating to fire doors and fire safety instructions will apply to all residential buildings with two or more domestic dwellings, regardless of the height of the building.
The regulations also bring forward the principle of a recommendation made by the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry on fire door inspections. If the building is 11m or more in height, the responsible person must check fire doors in communal parts of the building every three months and must make their ‘best endeavours’ to check the fire doors of individual premises at least every 12 months. Fire door checks should include ensuring that the self-closers are working.
In addition, for all buildings containing two or more domestic premises and common areas through which residents would evacuate, the regulations require that the responsible person must share safety information with residents about the important role that fire doors play in an emergency. The responsible person must also ensure that fire safety instructions which detail the evacuation strategy for the building, and how to report a fire, are displayed in the building, as well as supplied to residents.
The regulations set out requirements that relate to high-rise residential buildings, such as including the structure and external wall system as part of a building’s fire risk assessment, ensuring the fire service have key information about a building including floor plans, installing and maintaining a ‘secure information box’ that contains key information about a building, and carrying out monthly checks of the lifts and fire-safety equipment.
The regulations do not cover the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry recommendation relating to evacuation policies for residents who would not be able to evacuate independently in an emergency. The government is consulting further on this, and we will be contacting members separately about this consultation in due course. Find out more about the consultation.
We will continue to work with our members to support them with the implementation of the regulations in the Act. If you have any questions about the Act or the regulations, please get in touch with our building safety team.