In April 2021, the Fire Safety Bill received Royal Assent and is now an official act of Parliament.
Although the Act is brief, its effect will be significant. It amends the Fire Safety Order 2005 for buildings containing more than one residential unit so that the fire risk assessment must cover the external walls of the building and the front doors of individual premises within it. It applies to all qualifying buildings regardless of the number of storeys or the overall height and is not limited to buildings 18m and over in height, defined as 'higher-risk buildings' in the Building Safety Bill.
The government has acknowledged that the greater scope of the Fire Safety Order will impose major new demands both on the resources of building owners and on the capacity of those required to assess external wall systems. In view of this, and also because the breadth of the new requirement which means that it now extends to many buildings where the risk of fire is relatively low, the government has accepted the need for official guidance on prioritisation.
The guidance being developed by the Home Office, which is expected to include a 'building prioritisation toolkit' developed by the National Fire Chiefs Council, will give detailed advice to those responsible about their duties under the Act, including how to prioritise their buildings for a new fire risk assessment to include the external wall system and flat entrance fire doors. Since spring 2021, the NHF has been engaged alongside other bodies in a working party set up by the Home Office to develop this detailed guidance.
We expect the guidance to be published later in 2021, and have been informed that the Act will not take effect until the guidance is published. We will continue to work with the Home Office to develop the guidance and will update members as soon as it is available.Read more about the Fire Safety Act