A new fire and safety regime for high-risk buildings

A new post-Grenfell Tower fire and building safety regime is beginning to take shape. It will represent a marked departure from the existing regime and introduce significant duties for those involved in the management of occupied residential buildings that are at least 18 metres high.

In a series of briefings, Tetra Consulting will explore each of the main elements of the proposed new regime, which is unlikely to change, regardless of which government is returned in the forthcoming General Election. Here, we provide a brief background and overview. In part 2, we will look at the proposed safety case requirement that the government describes as “a fundamental change in approach” and that underpins the “whole building” approach of the new regime.

We will then look at the new position of an “accountable person”, who will be responsible for complying with the safety case and other conditions set in a building safety certificate issued by a new “building safety regulator”. We will also discuss the role of the new “building safety manager”, who will support the accountable person. Thereafter, we will review plans to give the occupants of the buildings a far stronger voice with those responsible for the management of the buildings, and proposals to strengthen the enforcement of the new regime alongside tougher sanctions.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, in which 72 people lost their lives, the government set up a public inquiry. Chaired by a retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the inquiry published the report on phase 1 of its work on 30 October 2019. This looked at what occurred on the night of the fire. Phase two, which will commence hearings in 2020, will focus on the “circumstances and causes” of the fire.

Alongside the public inquiry, the government commissioned an independent review of the Building Regulations and fire safety. This was led by Dame Judith Hackitt, a former chair of the Health and Safety Executive. The review’s final report was published in May 2018 and concluded that the regulatory system for higher-risk residential buildings was “not fit for purpose” and that overlaps between different pieces of legislation made it difficult to ensure sufficient oversight and responsibility for fire safety in the building as a whole.
The government accepted all 53 of Hackitt’s recommendations in December 2018, consulting on their implementation over summer 2019 in a document, Building a safer future: proposal for the reform of the building safety regulatory system, which proposed the new regime for residential buildings of 18 metres or more that this Tetra Consulting series is examining (BaSF, http://bit.ly/2M1CDW7).

The government is currently analysing the responses, alongside those to a parallel call for evidence on whether the principal legislation governing fire safety – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – remains fit for purpose given the changes proposed in BaSF.
Next: The new safety case regime.

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