Fire risk assessments: What has changed?

Blogs 6 Mar 2024

New fire safety legislation applies to non-domestic premises, such as workplaces and accommodation, in England and Wales.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, new fire safety legislation has been phased in that applies to anyone that is the Responsible Person as defined under the Fire Safety Order in England and Wales.  In summary, the Fire Safety Order applies to non-domestic premises, such as workplaces and accommodation provided that is not someone’s residence (such as hotel and bed & breakfast accommodation); as well as the communal parts of blocks of flats and certain parts of the building’s structure.

Requirement for written fire risk assessments

Since October 2023, legal changes require all Responsible Persons of these types of premises to:

  1. record their fire risk assessment in full (previously only the significant findings needed to be recorded and only in specific circumstances); and
  2. record the identity of the individual (their name and/or if applicable, their organisation) engaged by them to undertake and/or review a fire risk assessment.

Additionally, all fire risk assessments for premises covered under the Fire Safety Order are required to be in writing. The previous requirement for a written fire risk assessment applied only when there were five or more employees.

The requirement for competent persons only to carry out a fire risk assessment

It is of course essential that those carrying out risk assessments have an appropriate level of competence to do so. Whilst this provision of the legislation has not commenced yet, a new sub-section 4 of Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022, will place a legal duty on the Responsible Person that they must not appoint a person to assist them with making or reviewing a fire risk assessment unless that person is competent.

This provision will not commence in England until a system has been put in place by the Government to verify competence against a clear definition and against a comprehensive set of standards of competency.

However, it’s crucial that you begin to consider the competence of the individuals conducting your fire risk assessment early on, whether, for example, you’re an employer, managing agents of a block of flats, or an accommodation provider in the hospitality sector.  

Changes in England and Wales: Blocks of flats

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 were introduced in January 2023, which apply to England only, to implement the majority of those recommendations made to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

Legislation under the Building Act 2022, which has also applied in Wales since October 2023, sets out requirements for sharing fire safety information with residents in respect of all multi-occupied residential buildings with 2 or more sets of domestic premises

Additional requirements apply to responsible persons of high-rise residential blocks of flats and multi-occupied residential buildings above 11 metres in height. Managing the fire risk of high-rise buildings can be very complex, especially where there are shared tenancies and social landlord issues, not losing sight of the new Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, which regulates social housing.  Advice from Markel Consultancy Services can also be sought for the assessment and management of these more complex fire risks.

See our fact sheets, ‘Fire risk assessments’ and ‘Fire safety for residential premises in multi-occupied buildings’ on the FSB Legal and Business Hub for guidance on this legislation.

How can FSB assist?

FSB has partnered with Markel Consultancy Services to provide health and safety consultancy services to its members.  This consultancy service is offered on a fee-paying basis and is in addition to the  general health and safety telephone advice and health and safety guidance and template documents on the FSB Legal and Business Hub that FSB members have access to as part of their FSB membership.

The consultancy services provide a wide range of fully tailored solutions provided either remotely or on site, if required, to assist businesses in complying with their legal duties under health and safety legislation. This includes acting as your legally required competent health and safety advisor and delivering fire risk assessments. Details of these services can be found on the FSB Legal and Business Hub under the heading of Fee Paying Services.

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