UK Government publishes response to Fire Safety Consultation committing to unlimited fines

United Kingdom

The UK Government has published its response to the Fire Safety Consultation (Consultation), which was launched on 20 July 2020 and formed part of the Government’s objective to improve building and fire safety in all regulated premises. 

Having considered the responses received to the Consultation, the Government, in its response, have outlined the measures that they are proposing to take in order to drive forward their agenda to improve the fire safety of regulated buildings.

The Current Regulatory Framework

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) was introduced in October 2006 and covers the ongoing fire safety management of a premises while occupied. In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017, the UK Government has committed itself to overhaul fire safety regulation and implement changes to ensure that the FSO continues to be fit for purpose. As part of this agenda, the Government have published a draft Building Safety Bill, which you can read about here.

Proposed New Measures

In light of the findings of the Consultation, the Government propose to implement the following measures:

  1. Strengthen the provision relating to statutory guidance issued under Article 50 of the FSO.

  2. Require that where the Responsible Person (RP) appoints a person to make or review the fire risk assessment, they must be competent.

  3. Require that all RPs must record their completed fire risk assessment.

  4. Require that all RPs must record (and as necessary update) their contact information, including a UK based address.

  5. Require that all RPs must take reasonable steps to identify themselves to all other RPs (and where applicable Accountable Persons under the Building Safety Bill) where they share or have duties in respect of the same premises.

  6. Require that, for all regulated premises in England and Wales, RPs must record the name of the individual, and organisation of persons engaged by them to undertake any or all of the fire risk assessment.

  7. Require that departing RPs must first take reasonable steps to share all relevant fire safety information with incoming RPs.

  8. Increase the level of fines from Level 3 (£1,000) to Level 5 (unlimited) for offences in relation to the impersonation of an inspector, failure to comply with specific requirements imposed by an inspector, and failure to comply with requirements relating to the installation of luminous tube signs.

The proposals, which will amend the FSO, will require implementation through changes to primary and secondary legislation, as well as guidance. Where changes are needed to primary legislation, it is intended that these will be taken forward through the Building Safety Bill.

The response to the Consultation can be found here.

Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group

The Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group (Group) is comprised of eight social residents and eight social landlords and supported by two building safety experts. The Group was formed to harness existing good practice in the social sector, and create an environment to give residents a voice in trialling innovative approaches towards communication with their landlords, on issues of fire and building safety. The Group has published a best practice report, which contains the following recommendations:

  1. The Government should establish stronger sanctions for tenants and leaseholders who do not provide details of key health and safety requirements within their property which might impact on the safety of their building, or do not provide access for the purpose of assessing such compliance.

  2. For the Government, in conjunction with NFCC and other key stakeholders to review and set out a consistent approach to national fire safety messages, particularly the language used around the ‘stay put’ messaging.

  3. Housing providers with high-rise residential blocks or those deemed high-risk should consider as part of their fire risk assessment and safety case, the retrofitting of BS 8629 Evacuation Alert systems.

  4. The sector should conduct further research into tailored messaging, focusing on different demographic groups. It should carry out further research to ensure that all groups with protected characteristics are supported by landlords to achieve effective access to properties and have key fire safety information communicated to them. This could be undertaken in conjunction with Fire and Rescue Services.

The report can be found here.

Legislation Update

The Building Safety Bill was scrutinised by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Parliamentary Select Committee last year. A number of key recommendations were made in a report published on 24 November 2020 – you can read about the recommendations here. These recommendations may result in amendments to the Bill before its first reading in the House of Commons.

The Fire Safety Bill is currently before Parliament and awaiting Royal Assent. It was most recently debated in the House of Commons on 17 March 2021, where amendments are currently being considered amongst the House of the Commons and the House of Lords.

If you require specific advice on Fire Safety and Building Safety, please speak to Lukas Rootman and Kaleem Mahmood. 

The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of Isabel Sgambellone (Trainee, CMS Sheffield) in preparing this article.