Building owners and managers face ‘blizzard’ of new fire regs
The team behind the industry’s building maintenance standard SFG20 have prepared a series of updates to help building owners and managers cope with an unprecedented increase in the number of fire regulations.
New Fire Safety (England) Regulations came into force on January 23rd and introduced stringent new legal requirements for anyone responsible for fire safety in high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs). These new duties come hot on the heels of the Fire Safety Act 2021 and the Building Safety Act 2022, both of which came into force last year, along with updates to the Building Regulations Approved Document B, which were applied from December 1st last year.
Some industry experts have voiced concern about the ability of the industry to absorb all these changes in such a short space of time, although they also recognise the need for a tighter focus on fire safety in buildings following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The regulations close several important loopholes in previous legislation not least around the need for more regular checks on fire doors and better information for building residents. They also place greater responsibilities on building duty holders.
The initial focus of the new fire safety regime is on HRRBs, which are defined as being at least 18 metres high or consisting of seven storeys including two or more residential units. However, the government has been clear that the new rules will eventually be extended to all types of building.
Many building ‘duty holders’ remain unprepared for the changes and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has acknowledged that a large number appear to be intimidated by the scale and depth of the changes.
HM Inspector of Health & Safety Neil Hope-Collins told the recent Build2Perform conference and exhibition that it was “absolutely shocking and hugely disappointing” that many firms had made no attempt to prepare for the new safety regime. He said there was a large amount of complacency, but also that some people appeared intimidated by the sheer scale of the new legislation.
The SFG20 technical team moved rapidly to try and address this problem by absorbing all the changes and reflecting them in the updated service and maintenance schedules included in the digital packages provided to users. They have established what a building owner, manager or building user must do to ensure compliance and listed the specific maintenance tasks involved.
Four completely new schedules will be available in the SFG20 core library this month and four existing schedules have been updated to improve clarity and terminology and bring them in line with the legislation. The team has also cross-referenced 15 existing schedules with the new schedules for multi-occupied, multi-storey buildings where further maintenance may be required.
Duty holders will also have additional responsibilities under the Building Safety Act 2022, for example assessing and managing building safety risks and reporting to the Building Safety Regulator. These responsibilities are not covered by SFG20 which focuses on the maintenance requirements only.
“The blizzard of new fire safety legislation that has hit the industry in the past 12 months is unprecedented,” said SFG20’s managing director Kirsty Cogan. “It reflects the totally understandable desire to double down on fire safety, but many building owners and maintainers are concerned about their ability to cope with the extra level of detail involved.
“However, the beauty of the SFG20 system is that we can pinpoint the key changes and their associated service and maintenance tasks on behalf of our users. This considerably simplifies their job and ensures they can quickly achieve compliance – and peace of mind.”
For more information about the fire safety regulations and new SFG20 schedules click here