Lessons from Grenfell: New fire safety responsibilities
Who is the Responsible Person?
Under the Fire Safety Order, the Responsible Person is the person who has control of the premises. For example, a leaseholder, a tenant, a building owner, or an employer in relation to a workplace (provided the workplace is to any extent under their control e.g. they are self-employed), can be the Responsible Person. There can be more than one Responsible Person for the same premises particularly for non-domestic parts of premises for which the freeholder, landlord or a managing agent could all be responsible. For further information on identifying Responsible Persons, please follow the link below.
What additional responsibilities will be introduced by Section 156?
In summary, all Responsible Persons are required to:
- record their completed fire risk assessment in full.
- record their fire safety arrangements to demonstrate how fire safety is managed.
- record their identity (including their name) and, if applicable, the name of the organisation they engage to undertake/review a fire risk assessment.
- record their contact information, including a UK based address, which must be kept updated and be shared with other Responsible Persons and residents of multi-occupied residential premises where applicable.
- share all relevant fire safety information with incoming Responsible Persons when outgoing Responsible Persons leave.
- take reasonably practicable steps to identify other Responsible Persons who share or have duties for the same premises and any Accountable Persons (a new legal entity created by the Act in the case of higher-risk residential buildings) in relation to the premises. Responsible Persons must then identify themselves to other Responsible Persons and should exchange details of the extent of their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order.
- cooperate with any Accountable Persons identified to enable them to comply with their duties under the Act. This applies to Responsible Persons in a higher risk residential building (defined under the Act as at least 18 metres in height, or with at least 7 storeys, and containing at least 2 residential units).
- provide residents with relevant fire safety information in a format that is easily understood.
This applies where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises.
What else does Section 156 do?
- It increases the levels of fines (currently a maximum of £1,000) for some offences under the Act (bringing them into line with other offences) where they are committed on or after 1 October 2023. Unlimited fines can be imposed for the offences of intentionally deceptive impersonation of a fire inspector, failure to comply (without reasonable excuse) with specific requirements imposed by a fire inspector and failure to comply with requirements relating to the installation of luminous tube signs.
- It strengthens the status of any statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State under Article 50 of the Fire Safety Order to assist Responsible Persons to discharge their duties by providing that, in court proceedings for alleged breaches of the Order, compliance with or deviation from such guidance may be relied upon as tending to establish whether the Order was breached.
The enhanced status of Article 50 guidance reflects the legal status of Approved Codes of Practice issued by the Health and Safety Executive. The status of these Codes means that those defending alleged breaches of health and safety legislation will be convicted if it is proved a relevant Code was not followed unless they can show they complied with the law in another way. The new status of Article 50 guidance and the unlimited fines for breaches of the Act, indicate that prosecutions are anticipated for breaches which, if proved in court, may result in significant sentences.
Unsurprisingly, the section 156(4) requirement that, where the Responsible Person appoints a person to make or review a fire risk assessment, that person must be competent will not be brought into force on 1 October 2023. This awaits completion of the work on detailing the competency requirements under the Act and publication of regulations relating to duty holders and competency. Meanwhile, the Government recommends that Responsible Persons ensure fire risk assessors are competent “….in terms of having sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities”.
We will publish a further article on the Section 156(4) guidance (which should be published before section 156(4) is brought into force) to continue to support Responsible Persons.
- Lessons from Grenfell: The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (shoosmiths.com)
- Check your fire safety responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Fire safety responsibilities under Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
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