The draft Fire Safety Bill is currently being reviewed in Parliament, with its intended purpose to update the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 following the Grenfell tragedy.
Current Position Pre-Fire safety Bill
The Fire Safety Order creates fire safety obligations for the responsible person who is usually an employer where the building is a workplace or the party responsible for communal areas where the building is a residential apartment block. Building owners can also have responsible person obligations.
Failure to comply with the FSO is a criminal offence enforceable by the relevant Fire & Rescue Authority, who have powers to issue enforcement notices as well as powers to prosecute.
The Government have been critical of Fire & Rescue Authorities for not using the full extent of their enforcement powers to force remediation of cladding and fire stopping issues that have emerged in the countrywide checks on apartment blocks in the aftermath of Grenfell. The Fire & Rescue Authorities are clearly uncomfortable changing over ten years of enforcement precedent to accommodate the Government’s attempts to rewrite the industry approach to the Building.
See our previous insight which explores the Building Safety Bill.
The Fire Safety Bill as currently drafted will amend the FSO and is likely to create the following key changes:
- creating a legal requirement on residential building owners to inspect external cladding and fire doors (closing the loophole which previously left it unclear as to whether fire safety legislation applied to the structure and external walls of multi-occupied residential buildings);
- empowering Fire & Rescue Authorities to take enforcement action and hold building owners accountable if they are not compliant;
- acting as a platform to allow MHCLG to easily amend the legislation, enabling recommendations from the Grenfell Inquiry to be introduced; and
- allowing MHCLG to easily amend the FSO to include other types of buildings in the future.
Concerns are already being raised
However, during the Draft Bill’s Second Reading on 29 April 2020, some key concerns were raised regarding its interrelation with the draft Building Safety Bill (see our insight on the Building Safety Bill).
There are two key elements of concern regarding the interaction between the Fire Safety Bill and the Building Safety Bill:-
- the responsible person in the Fire Safety Bill and the accountable person in the Building Safety Bill need to be consistent; and
- the FSO applies to all buildings regardless of height, whereas the Building Safety Bill appears only likely to focus only on buildings over 18 metres