At the time of writing this article, there are 9 days to go until the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 becomes enforceable by the 43 English Fire and Rescue Services. I have written previously about the detail of the new regulations and the new duties by building height so I won’t be going over that again in this article. You can, however, access our Fire Safety (England) Regulations checklist tool here: https://buildingsafetyregister.org/fire-safety-regulations-checklist/
It’s important to remember that the Fire Safety (England) Regulations was created in response to the Phase 1 Grenfell Inquiry recommendations, which were first published in October 2019. Although some of the finer details have changed and communication by the Home Office has been poor, the main thrust of the new regulations should not come as a surprise to Responsible Persons.
We don’t know yet how vociferously the FRS are likely to enforce the new regulations but non-compliance really shouldn’t be the starting point for an industry that has experienced the Grenfell tragedy and the resulting Building Safety Crisis.
My guess is that enforcement activity will ramp up quickly to demonstrate the new regulations are effective. If you are unlucky enough to experience a serious fire from 23rd January, that is formally investigated by the FRS, it would be hard to justify non-compliance.
Getting Ready for the Fire Safety (England) Regulations
Over the past 6 months or so I have spoken to hundreds of RPs and FRS staff about the finer details of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations and have presented at industry events on the topic. This led to the launch of a dedicated Fire Safety (England) Regulations Resource Centre in June 2022 that over 650 industry colleagues signed up for. In addition, we created an interactive checklist and most recently a granular implementation list in PDF format.
I am fairly confident, from the conversations I have had, that good progress is being made by RPs on the operational implementation of the regulations. For example, wayfinding signage is being installed, floor plans are being drawn up and secure information boxes are being bolted to walls.
What is not being discussed too much is the process design for maintaining Fire Safety (England) Regulations compliance on an ongoing basis, especially across a portfolio of in-scope buildings. On the face of it, it might seem simple, but with the number of moving parts multiplied by a large number of blocks, it’s anything but.
The aim of this article is to get RPs thinking about the compliance process and offer solutions that minimise human error, don’t bog you down in manual processing, and are evidentially robust, should the worst happen.
Setting the scene – Portfolio of 28 HRBs
For the purposes of illustration, we will focus on the Hypothetical Housing Association (HHA) with a portfolio of 90 blocks, of which we will focus on the 28 that are HRBs.
The 28 HHA blocks are distributed across 5 sovereign FRS areas.
HHA have installed their wayfinding signage, fire door checks have started, building managers have been trained on their monthly equipment check process, building and floor plans have been produced, external wall risk has been assessed. So, they are in a good place.
Proving and maintaining FS(E)R compliance
Information sharing with the FRS (Regulation 11) – Abbreviated Requirement
HHA is required to electronically share floor plans, building plans, and external wall information with the local FRS.
For each block we can assume 4 unique floor plates/plans, 1 building plan, and 1 external wall report. So that’s 6 unique documents x 28 blocks. Total 168 unique documents to be shared.
For the purposes of this analysis, we assume that the documents are already prepared and up to date.
- Best method to share evidential documents with 5 different FRS that work independently of each other
- How to ensure revisions of any of the 168 documents are shared with the correct FRS
- How to prove during an audit or investigation that each document (including version details) was shared with the FRS and at what time/date
- How do you stop unauthorised sharing of regulatory documents with the FRS
- How do HHA management get assurance that the FRS sharing regulations have been complied with across a portfolio of 28 blocks that may have differing responsible managers
Lifts and essential fire-fighting equipment (Regulation 7) – Abbreviated Requirement
HHA is required to undertake monthly routine checks of lifts for use by firefighters, evacuation lifts and essential fire-fighting equipment within the building. They must also inform the FRS electronically of any fault that will take longer than 24 hours to rectify and notify FRS when it has been rectified.
For each block, there are lifts, plus a max of 7 prescribed fire-fighting equipment/systems. So that’s 8 items x 28 blocks x 12 months. Total 2,688 checks to be completed and recorded each year.
With regard to fault reporting, let’s assume 3 reportable system failures per block per year. 3 failure reports and 3 rectification reports x 28 blocks. Total 168 formal notifications to FRS per year.
For the purpose of this analysis, we assume that HHA have produced a monthly checks methodology, a recording process, and trained staff in how to conduct compliant checks.
- How to record the evidence of 28 monthly equipment checks
- How to evidence monthly checks retrospectively to an auditor or regulator
- How to evidence the formal notification of fault and repair to 5 independent FRS that operate different systems
- How to gain management assurance that all 28 blocks are reliably reporting faults and repairs to the FRS
- How to make the record of the monthly check accessible to residents (as per Reg 7-4)
- How to evidence making the monthly check accessible to residents to an auditor or regulator
Secure information box (Regulation 4) – Abbreviated Requirement
HHA must install and maintain a secure information box in or on each of their 28 buildings. The secure information box must contain prescribed information (Contact details for Responsible Person, Contact details for Responsible Person’s delegate, Floor & Building Plans)
HHA also has to ensure the FRS is provided with the means to access the SIB now and ensure they are updated if any of the access requirements change. SIB must be inspected at a minimum annually.
Foe each block we can assume a minimum of 6 pieces of printed SIB content x 28 blocks. Total 168 pieces of printed SIB content.
- How to make sure printed SIB content is updated whenever source materials are updated
- How to communicate SIB access details to FRS and ensure an evidential record of communication is retained
- How to record and diarise the annual (minimum) SIB check
Fire doors (Regulation 10) – Abbreviated Requirement
HHA must provide residents with the required information about fire doors. This information must be provided to new residents as soon as reasonably practicable after they move in and to existing residents within every 12 month period.
HHA must use best endeavours to ensure flat entrance (fire) doors are checked every 12 months and communal (fire) doors are checked every 3 months. HHA must keep a record of the steps taken to comply with the obligation.
For each block we can assume a minimum of 4 communal door reports and 1 flat entrance door report per year x 28 blocks. Total 140 unique reports.
- How to distribute fire door information to new and existing residents and evidence the distribution for future audit or inspection
- How to track distribution dates to ensure distribution of information at least annually
- How to record results of fire door inspections
- How to track key dates for fire door inspections
- How to provide management assurance that fire door inspection program is compliant
- How to record ‘best endeavours’ activity for future audit or inspection
The above considerations are not an exhaustive list. For example, I haven’t written about Wayfinding Signage and how to evidence installation and suitability. I haven’t written about Regulation 9 provision of Fire Safety information to residents and how to evidence ‘conspicuous display.’
I have tried to write this article in such a way that it conveys the complexity of the task at hand sufficiently and the need to think further than Day 1 compliance with the Fire Safety (England) Regulations.
In the Hypothetical Housing Association case above I have identified over 3,164 unique Fire Safety (England) Regulations evidential compliance documents to be managed each year. The true number will be greater when document revisions and the full suite of regulations are counted.
The reality is, that even with a modest portfolio of properties and assuming you want to be bulletproof in terms of compliance, you will likely need some technological assistance. The good news is that we have solved all of the issues posed above and more with the Building Safety Register.
Within minutes we can deploy a structured, cloud-based environment for each of your blocks. It will be pre-populated with the correct evidential containers to ensure total compliance with the regulations. The system reminds you and your teams when action needs to be taken and automates sharing the correct, real-time information with the correct FRS.