Building safety: act now to get ready for the shape of things to come

News

  • General news

23 April 2020


Building safety: act now to get ready for the shape of things to come

A more stringent building safety regime has moved another step closer following the Government’s recent response to the MHCLG’s Building a Safer Future consultation.

The new Building Safety Regulator, which has started to function in shadow format, will initially focus on fire and structural safety for all multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres or more in height, or more than six storeys (whichever is reached first). Working with industry and other regulatory bodies, the regulator will also seek to strengthen the safety and performance of other buildings, based on emerging risk evidence, as well as the competence of those working in the sector.

Although we do not anticipate the new legislation to be published until the end of 2020 and come into force next year, regulatory authorities expect the sector to be acting now to prepare for the changes. There will undoubtedly be substantial costs for industry associated with both ongoing and remedial activity and compliance needs, so business plans need to be prepared accordingly. Specific areas and measures that businesses and building managers should be considering now include:

Building safety measures: review, remediate, improve

  • Assess which buildings in your remit will fall within the scope of the new regime either immediately or in the future – would any of them benefit from the best practice the new regime is advocating? Develop an asset management plan to prioritise works
  • Review the safety related measures that should be in place and remediate where necessary. Both the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry first phase report and the Expert Advisory Panel have issued recommendations and updated guidance (please click on links for details). Key areas to consider include:
  • Remove unsafe materials and remediate any unsafe wall systems
  • Make sure fire risk assessments are up to date, with specific checks on: 1) external wall cladding and fire resistance, 2) fire doors – are they fire resistant and self-closing? Test at least every three months to ensure self-closing devices are working effectively
  • Review and test fire-fighting systems and equipment - including fire lifts and their control mechanisms - to ensure they are functioning correctly
  • Review emergency fire procedures: personal evacuation plans should be drawn up for residents who may need assistance with evacuation, provide for evacuation signals, check that effective smoke control systems are in place and that floor levels are clearly and prominently marked

People: the new statutory duties and functions

  • Will you have the new statutory roles of Accountable Person and Building Safety Manager for each building covered? These roles can be fulfilled by legal entities, but there will need to be a competent individual named as the Building Safety Manager (BSM), while the accountability of the Accountable Person will not be transferable, and both will need to be registered with the new regulator. Do you already have the right people for these roles?
  • If you have someone for the new BSM role, do they have the right skills and experience? IWFM has been helping to develop the specific competence requirements for the BSM as part of WG8 - will your nominated person meet these requirements?  The competence framework upon which the BSI national standard will be based on will be published on our website very shortly.
  • Staff training and upskilling will be needed to raise awareness about their responsibilities and liabilities, especially for those carrying out statutory roles and duties
  • Do you have sufficient resources (people and time) as well as the funding to put the new measures in place and ensure compliance?

Information and systems:

  • The new regime will rely on putting sufficient information in the hands of the relevant people so that they can plan and implement the right actions, and can then evidence that their approach meets the requirements of the new regime to the regulator
  • Start collating the information which will be needed to meet the requirements of the new safety case (page 50) which shows how fire and other risks are being managed, the digital ‘golden thread’ (page 66) of building information and the premises information box for emergency services (please click on the links for further details)
  • Another element of the regime is the need for a transparent engagement strategy with residents to ensure they have access to the relevant fire safety information, if you are not already doing so, start developing your engagement strategy.

It is vitally important that those responsible for building safety keep themselves up to date as the new regime comes into force. IWFM will regularly update our webpage on this topic and will actively keep members informed of developments, particularly on the new competency requirements.

If you would like any further information on the above or to share your views on building safety, please email: policy@iwfm.org.uk 

Related news items:  

Building a safer future: the UK Government’s vision for its building safety programme (9th April 2020)

Building safety: Government introduces new Fire Safety Bill for England and Wales (18th March 2020) 

Building safety update: new legislation; government’s response to Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 (29th January 2020)