Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 the Government commissioned an independent review of the building regulations around fire safety. The review was led by Dame Judith Hackitt and concluded that “the current system of building regulations and fire safety is not fit for purpose” with a number of recommendations for a new regulatory framework with a clear model of risk ownership.
A year later more than 50 recommendations were published, followed by the Building Safety Bill in 2021 and the Building Safety Act (the “Act”) which received Royal Assent to become an Act of Parliament on 28 April 2022. The Act introduces significant changes to the law and practice of the construction industry in England and Wales, with some aspects of the Act also being extended to Scotland.
The Act introduces a strengthened regulatory regime to improve safety, accountability and risk-management. Whilst it focuses primarily on residential buildings its significance to the healthcare sector is the introduction of a new regime for “higher-risk buildings” buildings at least 18 metres high or with at least 7 storeys and at least two residential units. It also applies to care homes and hospitals meeting the same height threshold during design and construction.
All occupied “higher-risk buildings” must be registered with the Building Safety Regulator by October 2023. It is a criminal offence if a building is occupied but not registered after this date. Clients should therefore start to prepare their buildings and organisations to ensure they are in a position to comply with the provisions of the Act when they come into force.
Given the growing number of healthcare facilities reporting concerns as to fire safety, the Act should be noted by both the public sector and private companies involved in the design, construction, operation or maintenance of such facilities.
In practice this may also mean:
reviewing policies and procedures at a facility level to ensure compliance;
considering whether appropriate updates to HTMs or HBMs are required; and
noting the new requirement to report structural and fire safety issues which could cause significant risk to life to the Building Safety Regulator.
Of particular note for new healthcare facilities or existing healthcare facilities looking to undertake variation or expansion works will be the proposed new gateway procedure. This is intended to ensure that fire safety plays a key factor during each phase of the design, construction, completion and occupation of a higher-risk building and will need to be built into the planning stage for any new construction project.
For our earlier article on the Act and a summary of its commencement provisions, see Building Safety Act 2022: overview and commencement (cms-lawnow.com)
For a detailed analysis on the gateway procedure, see Building Safety Act 2022: the new approvals regime for higher-risk buildings
For an overview of the Act’s impact on the Scottish legal landscape, see Building Safety Act 2022: the Scottish Perspective