The Grenfell Tower inquiry rumbles on and has yet to be concluded, but the government is taking action to address some key safety issues which have arisen as a result. I would love to say that these are simple, they are unfortunately rather complicated and are being implemented in a phased manner. In this blog I have tried to take the rather complex topic and boil it down into something that even I can understand, so I hope it’s somewhat useful to you!
The Building Safety Act 2022 – what is it
The Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA or “the act”) received Royal Assent in April 2022 – it is however a complex piece of legislation and contains 6 parts with 11 schedules. As a result it is being gradually brought into force through a number of commencement regulations. This is also complicated by the fact that some provisions may be brought into force in England and not in Wales (and vice versa). Much of the Act does not apply in Scotland. In order to remain up to date students are advised to read the relevant sections of the government website at The Building Safety Act – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
The following section contains a summary of the Act and its requirements and intentions – more detail can be found in the RRC Law and Case Law guide.
The act was brought about in response to the Grenfell Tower fire and the subsequent concerns over building safety. It works with, and makes amendments to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) and the Fire Safety Act 2021 (FSA).
New roles and accountabilities
The Act established a new role of “Building Safety Regulator” (BSR). The BSR is focused on the safety of “higher risk buildings” i.e. those over 7 storeys / 18m in height and having at least 2 residential units. The HSE has been identified as the BSR.
Higher-risk buildings will be subject to new controls under the BSA, and these are monitored by the building safety regulator. Dutyholders will also have clear accountability in law and a key part of this is the maintenance of a “golden thread” of information relating to the safety of the building which must help those responsible to identify, manage and mitigate fire risks throughout the life of the building (not just during its construction).
The Act will also establish a new role of “Accountable Person” (AP), and this can be an organisation or individual responsible for the building or for maintaining common areas such as corridors and stairwells. This is a critical role in the mitigation of fire spread. There is also a Principal Accountable Person (PAP) who is also responsible for the building structure and exterior. The PAP must register existing higher-risk buildings with the BSR by Oct 2023 and register new higher-risk buildings before they are occupied. This will require the preparation of a Safety Case Report which shows that building safety risks have been assessed and managed.
The Building Safety Regulator will be the building control authority for high-rise buildings and will ensure that safety is considered at the design phase, that the “golden thread” of safety information is being maintained, give approval for building to start, carry out inspections, inspect documents which are to be supplied to the final owner of the building and undertake final inspections of buildings before issuing a completion certificate.
Modifications to RRFSO due to the Building Safety Act
There are some small but important modifications which are being made in time to the RRFSO as a result of the BSA. One critical point is the clarification that where a responsible person as identified in the RRFSO appoints someone to assist with or review the fire risk assessment for a premise they must not do so unless the person is competent. Competence in this case is defined as having “sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable the person properly to assist in making or reviewing the assessment”.
Where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises (such as a block of apartments) the responsible person will have to provide residents with “comprehensible and relevant information about fire safety matters” such as (but not limited to) risks and protective measures identified in the fire risk assessment and UK contact details of the responsible person. If the “responsible person” changes the fire safety information will need to be transferred to the new “responsible person”.
The law also clarifies that responsible persons under RRFSO and accountable persons under the BSA MUST cooperate to enable them to carry out their duties.
More information can also be found on the HSE microsite at Building safety – HSE.
RRC Lead Tutor