External wall safety reporting becomes compulsory

New regulations formalized this week will force owners of high-rise buildings to report on the safety of their external wall system.

Under the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, a “responsible person” (the building owner, employer or occupier) will have to provide the local fire service with details of the design and materials included in external wall systems on buildings of over 18 meters , as well as alert the fire service to any material changes.

They must also include information on the “level of risk that the design and materials of the external wall structure gives rise to and any mitigating steps taken”. The recommendations were made by the Grenfell Inquiry during the first phase of its work in October 2019.

Building owners will also need to provide building plans to the fire service and keep a copy on site, which must include information on where to find key firefighting equipment. The building plans must also contain the name of the responsible person.

The responsible person must also carry out monthly checks on the lifts, with any defects to be reported within 24 hours to the local fire service.

The new rules also include a host of requirements for medium-rise buildings of more than 11 metres, including that the responsible person must carry out annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors.

Institution of Fire Engineers chief executive Steve Hamm said that clearly identifying the duties of responsible people is an important step in “rebuilding trust in the fire safety of residential buildings”.

He added: “This level of accountability is vitally important and communities need to be confident that everything possible is being done to keep the buildings they live in as safe as possible, providing complete transparency when issues arise.

“As the international professional body for fire, we are committed to supporting clear competency frameworks for fire engineers while maintaining the high levels of ethics and standards that drive advances in fire safety.”

Crime, policing and fire minister Chris Philp said he was “very pleased” the measures were coming into law following the recommendations from the Grenfell Inquiry.

“Keeping the public safe is our utmost priority and we are committed to ensuring that the Grenfell tragedy must never happen again,” he said.

The change in legislation is one of several fire-safety policy developments in the pipeline. Last month, the government announced plans for a consultation on increasing the number of staircases required in high-rise buildings to two, following pressure from the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Scotland is currently the only part of the UK to require more than one staircase by law.

From October, the new Building Safety Regulator will consider new plans for high rises, which could see plans sent back if they do not meet safety standards. The first stage of that advisory process was already operating in 2022.

last month, Construction News revealed that 60 per cent of all planning applications logged between January and October were flagged over their fire safety provisions.

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