Posted November 14, 2017

In the third article on our series about “What can we learn from Grenfell?”, this week we’re considering the FIA’s response regarding fire regulation to the recent call for evidence for the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

The review, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, aimed to “urgently assess the effectiveness of current building and fire safety regulations and related compliance and enforcement issues, with a focus on multi occupancy high rise residential buildings”, with a final report to be submitted in spring 2018. It was commissioned in light of the “system failures which have been revealed by testing carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster”.

It sought the input of relevant stakeholders, the FIA being one of them. The FIA then issued a call for experts to join a special interest group to help them formulate a response.

There were a number of questions answered by the interest group. We’ve summarised a few of their responses in this article.

• Feedback seems to suggest that “responsible persons” often have limited understanding of fire regulation, safety guidance and legislation.
• Whilst there are individual specialists who have extensive knowledge of their particular discipline, they may be less aware of the overarching fire safety requirements and how their actions may impact them.
• The identification and responsibilities regarding fire regulation of a responsible person under the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO) are often not well understood.
• In instances where multiple people are involved, it is not often clear who exactly is the responsible person. The FIA are recommending that the RRO is amended to require that a Certificate of Building Fire Safety is displayed in such buildings identifying the name and contact details of the responsible person, alongside details of the fire risk assessments. They go on to say that this could be particularly helpful for tenants.
• An inspection by the fire service does not absolve the responsible person of their own responsibilities.
• It is important for the responsible person to ensure that tenants are aware of their own responsibilities, though it was acknowledged that there is a difficulty in then enforcing fire safety requirements on tenants.
• Technical specifications are often produced by architects and other non-fire specialists who often do not fully understand fire tests. The FIA suggests that there needs to be more training for architects and other specifiers, or that they should involve fire engineers to check specifications.
• For high risk properties there should be a higher level of inspections to ensure that fire safety standards are implemented and maintained properly.
• In buildings where there is a “stay put” policy (such as blocks of flats) where fire brigade access is a critical part of the fire precautions, then the RRO should include a greater emphasis on ensuring those access routes are acceptable.

There is sure to be more deliberation with regard to fire regulations in the near future. It’s sad that it took something as tragic as Grenfell to tackle some of these issues, but it’s good to see positive change.