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The government is pushing towards greater regulation of fire safety precautions. The implementation strategy follows on from separate proposals to revise Approved Document B and update guidance on the assessment of fire door performance, and the highly publicised ban on combustible cladding.
The new proposals include a trial of a tougher oversight system by the Joint Regulators Group (comprising the HSE, Local Authority Building Control (LABC), the Fire and Rescue Services through the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) and the Local Government Association). The new system is designed to move away from a focus on passive compliance to one where developers and owners take responsibility for ensuring resident safety.
Before any legislative reform, the government will work with industry to improve guidance for both developers and owners.
The consultation in spring 2019 will include the scope of the new regime dutyholder responsibilities, proactively providing residents with safety critical information, enforcement, sanctions, and the "gateways" for the new approval process.
Proposals for the safety case regime include making fire authorities consultees in the planning process for high risk residential buildings even before the new framework is established, as well as requiring persistent digital record keeping throughout the occupation of relevant buildings. The government also wants to clarify and strengthen existing regimes for all categories of buildings.
Approved Documents L, F and M will be reviewed with reviews of various technical requirements under other parts early in 2019.
The government proposes to work with industry including consulting on the current role and function of BRAC, and working with the Construction Products Association, test houses and industry groups on product performance, including fire protection. New standards will be created in collaboration with industry for manufacturing, installation and inspection of products.
The government is also considering bringing forward legislation on construction products including standards and performance.
Another important element is encouraging UK notified bodies and product suppliers to produce more accessible performance summaries and take steps to encourage relevant buildings to use third party certification of fire safety products.
The approach set out above is largely voluntary and depends on industry engagement in the process. Failure to do so is likely to lead to mandatory regulatory interventions. Reviews of industry's proposals are planned over the next five months and could lead to further legislation if necessary.
If you are affected by the above, you could consider responding to the various consultations, calls for evidence or engaging with the relevant industry bodies in order to ensure that your concerns and contributions are heard.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at February 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.
13 February 2019
by Jason Cropper