Fire Prevention NEWS July 2021
New regulator at heart of building safety overhaul
MHCLG report on how the Building Safety Bill will set out a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained
- Reforms outline biggest changes to building safety regulation in a generation
- Building Safety Regulator to oversee a new safety regime for high-rise residential homes, taking safety and cost into account and keeping residents safe
- New ‘gateway’ points at design, construction and completion to ensure safety considered at every stage of a building’s development
The Building Safety Bill, published in July, will create lasting generational change and sets out a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained.
Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP will outline the next key step in an extensive overhaul to building safety legislation, giving residents more power to hold builders and developers to account and toughening sanctions against those who threaten their safety.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will set up the Building Safety Regulator to oversee the new regime and will be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high-rise residential buildings of 18m and above are effectively managed and resolved, taking cost into account.
This will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction, and safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.
These changes will simplify the existing system to ensure high standards are continuously met, with a ‘golden thread’ of information created, stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the regulator, wherever necessary.
Robert Jenrick MP said: “This Bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high-rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s lifecycle, from design, construction, completion to occupation.
“The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety swiftly, and reassuring the vast majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”
The reforms will tackle bad practice head on, building on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which highlighted a need for significant cultural and regulatory change.
Under the proposals, the government is more than doubling the amount of time, from six to 15 years, that residents can seek compensation for substandard construction work.
The changes will apply retrospectively. This means that residents of a building completed in 2010 would be able to bring proceedings against the developer until 2025.
These reforms also include new measures that apply to those seeking compensation for shoddy refurbishments which make the home unliveable.
New measures in the Building Safety Bill introduced will:
- Ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building
- Establish a Building Safety Regulator to hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed
- Give residents in these buildings more routes to raise concerns about safety, and mechanisms to ensure their concerns will be heard and taken seriously
- Extend rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable defects
- Drive the culture change needed across the industry to enable the design and construction of high-quality, safe homes in the years to come.
Arson warning as schools out for summer
Leading school insurer, Zurich Municipal, has released claims data that shows between 2015 and 2020, the number of school fires in August was 44 per cent higher compared to the average across this period
- School fires rise by 44 per cent in August
- One in five school fires are started deliberately
- Insurer Zurich Municipal urges schools to take steps to mitigate the risk of fire and arson
Schools are being urged to take precautions over the summer break to lower the risk of fire and arson, as data reveals more school fires occur in August than at any other time of year.
With many school buildings empty over August, fires can potentially take longer to discover, resulting in more extensive damage. Over the same period (Jan 2015-Dec 2020), the average cost of a fire in August was £8.1 million, five times higher than the average of £1.5 million.
Arson is a key risk in the lead up to the autumn term. Analysis of Home Office data from all 44 fire authorities in England shows around one in five school blazes are started deliberately, with one in six being large fires resulting in significant damage.
Tilden Watson, Zurich Municipal’s Head of Education, said: “Burnt out classrooms can cause major disruption to children’s education, with repairs often leading to months or even years of upheaval. As we head towards the summer break, it’s essential schools take adequate measures to combat potential losses as a result of fire and arson. This will minimise the risk of disruption to the start of the new term.”
- Between April 2015 and April 2020, firefighters were called to blazes at 1,467 primary schools and 834 secondary schools
- This destroyed the equivalent of 1,100 classrooms. Forty-seven primary and secondary school buildings were completely gutted, and 230 others seriously damaged
- Zurich estimates the average repair bill for large fires alone is £2.9 million, with some fires costing up to £20 million.
Zurich Municipal is also renewing its call for sprinklers to be made mandatory in all new or majorly refurbished schools. This follows recent government proposals to only make sprinklers mandatory in Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools, and all schools over 11m in height. Proposals the insurer believes do not go far enough.
Tilden Watson continues: “Sprinklers are proven to contain the spread of blazes and limit the damage they inflict. However, we believe the government’s latest proposals still leave the vast majority of pupils and schools exposed to blazes. We need to bring England in line with Wales and Scotland, where sprinklers are already compulsory in all new and majorly refurbished schools.”
Households must replace optical smoke alarms every 12 years
Households should replace optical smoke alarms every 12 years unless manufacturers recommend otherwise, according to a new study from Building Research Establishment
The research found that over a 12-year timeframe, a build-up of dust and dirt causes increased sensitivity in the devices, regularly resulting in a higher instance of false alarms. In domestic settings, this means that people inevitably end up checking whether an alarm is a genuine fire. This is not only an inconvenience, but also increases the likelihood of people becoming complacent over time and beginning to ignore alarms, even when there is a real risk.
Currently no strict mandatory period of replacement for domestic smoke alarms exists within British regulatory standards and it is likely that many households in the UK have alarms older than 12 years fitted. The findings revealed by the study are to be implemented into UK codes and guidance on recommended replacement periods for optical smoke alarms in domestic environments and will also be actively adopted by the Fire Industry Association, which helped to fund the research, and the British Standards Institutions (BSI) Committee.
The aim is for this to also influence other countries both in and outside of Europe to adopt more appropriate replacement periods, as current guidelines are not underpinned by accompanying research, which BRE is seeking to change.
Raman Chagger from BRE said: “To make for a safe built environment, it is crucial that smoke alarms operate at optimum sensitivity and deliver a quick response in the event of a fire. BRE is therefore calling on consumers to regularly check their smoke alarms, including the date of manufacture, to ensure they are fully functional, responsive, and within the recommended replacement period. This is a step that people can take themselves to make sure they are safe within their homes. We are very excited that the findings from this study are being incorporated into official guidance and that the research will hopefully deliver tangible change.”
IFE unveils future global strategy
The Institution of Fire Engineers report on having undertaken a comprehensive review of its communications and activities to improve its services and qualifications for members and strengthen its global influence in the two key areas of competence and sustainability
With more than 100 years of history, the professional membership body enables those in the fire sector to increase their knowledge, professional recognition and understanding of fire through a global discourse. It is instrumental in shaping a future world that is safer from fire.
Chief Executive of the IFE, Steve Hamm, explains: “The fire safety landscape in which our members operate is changing at a faster pace than at any time since the foundation of the organisation in 1918. This is both exciting and challenging and we have had valuable input from members, volunteers, staff and stakeholders in shaping our future direction.
“Across the board our members’ roles and responsibilities are evolving, influenced by advances in technologies and materials, external factors such as climate change and learnings from major incidents such as Grenfell. These are all influencing new regulations and standards, new ways of working and highlighting the importance of knowledge and information sharing to evolve our skills and capabilities worldwide.”
To support its future strategy, the IFE has expanded its team to include Technical Director Peter Wilkinson to lead on the IFE’s technical collaborations, special interest groups and input into consultations. The new position of relationships manager has also been created and Gill Haynes has taken on this role to lead on developing support for the organisation’s international network of branches and extensive cohort of volunteers.
As part of its plans to enhance competency, the IFE has introduced a new suite of qualifications inspired by global industry needs and feedback from members and examiners. There are plans to build on the success of these by bringing in at least two new qualifications for 2022. The final selections are yet to be made but urban search and rescue and fire risk assessment are currently being explored.
The IFE is also building closer relationships with higher education and university establishments to broaden the depth and diversity of skills and competency across both technical and social disciplines. This work will create clear competency frameworks centred on membership, professional registrations, knowledge sharing and accessible career development pathways for all.
The shift to virtual learning and events during 2020 will continue. This will widen access to CPD and other events to members around the world, increasing their ability to knowledge share and learn from each other.
Aligned with these plans are the IFE’s initiatives to address sustainability, from adapting to the challenges driven by climate change to building resilience in the profession. Future practice will be informed by smart cities, connectivity and big data alongside advances in building materials, fuels, transport, energy storage, water and waste management, together with the technologies that fire professionals can use to predict, manage, monitor and deal with fire risk and fires.
Steve concludes: “Sustainability is an area where we feel the true value of our global community will come to the fore and we will be looking at ways to expand our branch network and CPD opportunities to share ideas and expertise that can inform best practice, spark fresh research and deliver advances in our professional capabilities and understanding.
“This will be a transformational year for our organisation, one in which we will build upon feedback from members around the world to strengthen our leadership, our communications, our responsiveness and our relevance to fast changing global fire safety and competency needs to ensure our members continue to thrive as trusted professionals.”
Driving consistency and improvement in Community Risk Management Planning with the latest Fire Standard
The Fire Standards Board report on the launch of its sixth professional Fire Standard, which compliments and builds on those already published this yearThe Community Risk Management Planning (CRMP) Fire Standard aims to bring consistency in the way fire services conduct planning and produce their local community risk management plans.
These important plans outline how services identify risks in their areas, consider the community needs and then describe how they will use their staff and resources to keep their communities safe from fire and other fire service-related risks.
The Fire Standard is underpinned by the work of the National Fire Chiefs Council Community Risk Programme, which is developing a set of standardised tools and guidance to support fire and rescue services.
FSB Chair, Suzanne McCarthy, said: “The Board recognises the importance of this standard, which is key to addressing the risks and needs of local communities. Bringing about consistency in this area, alongside the benchmarks being set for services in other Fire Standards including Prevention, Fire Protection and Operational Response, will enable services to deliver the best service possible to the public.”
Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “I am pleased to see the launch of the Fire Standard, which will support fire and rescue services by better assessing and reducing the risk of fire and other incidents in their local communities.
“I strongly encourage all services to use the standard alongside the recently launched Code of Ethics, to inform and benefit their day-to-day work protecting the public.”
Safety-based collaboration announced
NBS, a leading specification and product information platform for the construction industry, has entered into a new partnership agreement with the ASFP (Association for Specialist Fire Protection), the UK’s leading association for the passive fire protection sector
The partnership aims to assist with peer review and ensure the accuracy and quality of specifications relating to passive fire protection. It allows NBS to publish references to and extracts from ASFP Technical Guidance in NBS products and services, and to provide ASFP with extracts of NBS content for peer review.
The move will result in improved support to architects, designers and specifiers in developing specifications for passive fire protection products and systems. It ensures they will have access to appropriate high-quality guidance and technical content, helping them to produce accurate and structured specifications. It will also assist passive fire protection manufacturers to provide product information and technical data in an appropriate and structured format. Commenting on the partnership, ASFP CEO, Steve Davies, said: “One of the ASFP’s key aims is to raise the standards and improve the quality of passive fire protection products and installations. This new partnership with NBS offers us the opportunity to influence the way in which passive fire protection products are specified and to improve understanding throughout the construction sector of the properties and performance of these key life safety products.
“We look forward to working with NBS to raise awareness so that passive fire protection will be considered much earlier in the construction process. By sharing our technical expertise and best practice guidance we hope to promote the correct design, specification and installation of passive fire protection products and systems.”
Richard Waterhouse from NBS, said: “Fire safety has never been more important, and the ASFP bring a wealth of knowledge that’s unmatched in the industry. Having them on board will no doubt prove invaluable to our users when looking to specify passive fire protection products. Equally, this will be hugely beneficial to manufacturers who are looking to provide the very best standard of data and in a format that architects and specifiers can easily obtain.
“As specialists in their field, ASFP are the leading authority on passive fire protection and the design and installation of passive fire protection products, so we’re thrilled to be announcing this partnership. We’re also keen to share with ASFP members how NBS software can help protect against risk through our digitally collaborative specification writing platform.”
Commenting on the partnership, Sascia Elliott, Head of Partnerships at NBS, said: “Similar to the NBS ethos, end-user safety is at the heart of what ASFP do. The need for further expertise and guidance on this matter has never been more relevant and we’re looking forward to introducing this knowledge into the NBS platform as soon as possible.”
Northern Ireland Bill offers protection from dangerous electrics
Electrical Safety First has responded positively to the Private Tenancies Bill (Northern Ireland) offering greater protection from dangerous electrics
Responding to the Private Tenancies Bill (Northern Ireland), Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, commented: “This new Bill will finally afford tenants in Northern Ireland the same protection from electrical dangers that is already provided to PRS tenants in England and Scotland. The private rental market is now the second largest housing sector in NI and it is right that tenants are adequately protected from dangerous electrics.
“The Bill, at present, does not specify the frequency of the proposed electrical safety checks and we would urge the Assembly to ensure these are introduced on a five yearly basis. Electricity is the primary cause of fires in Northern Ireland’s homes and it is right that more is done to tackle this.”
Electrical Safety First – the UK-wide charity committed to reducing the number of deaths, injuries and accidents caused by electricity in the home – recently issued Recharge – a major report on Northern Ireland’s homes. It found private tenants had less protection from electrical risk than in other parts of the UK. It also suggests how annual savings of almost £9 million1 could be made – if electrical hazards in the housing stock were addressed.
To see a copy of the report, visit: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/what-we-do/our-policies/northern-ireland/research-northern-ireland/
Building Safety Bill “missed opportunity”
The Association for Project Safety has condemned the Building Safety Bill, second reading, as a “missed opportunity to slot all the safety pieces together”
President of the Association for Project Safety, Jonathan Moulam, said: “The Association for Project Safety (APS) believes all buildings – tall and small – should be safe from concept to decommissioning. Safety is a must-have and has to be in gold-medal place on the podium for any project – all other considerations are also-rans no matter how beautiful or innovative or cheap.
“APS members are experts in construction design and risk management so support the stated desire of the Building Safety Bill to make projects safer. But the Association for Project Safety believes the Building Safety Bill is a missed opportunity to slot all the safety pieces together. The association is pleased there is a better sense that responsibility for safety is expressly handed on from dutyholder to dutyholder throughout the lifespan of any project but the narrow focus on height, spread of fire and structural safety risks losing a sense of the whole picture by concentrating on individual pieces.
“It is right that responsibility for building safety must be clear at all times, but complex projects need teams and joined up working to deliver safety. Putting the legal burden for safety on the shoulders of individual named dutyholders means many projects won’t get off the ground and costs will soar. At a time when construction is desperate for workers, this Bill risks forcing out of business, people working alone – and even quite big firms – offering safety services because the insurance they need will be beyond anyone’s bank balance.”
The APS welcomes the focus on building safety. APS has concerns that the Bill fails to take a holistic view of any project and misses an opportunity to put safety first at the heart of construction.
Positives – Focus on Five
The APS specifically welcomes:
- Principle of the Golden Thread handing over specific responsibility for safety throughout the lifecycle of a building
- Greater statutory right for residents and flat leaseholders to be involved
- Creation of the Building Safety Regulator and formation of HSE Competence Committee
- Emphasis on approving and specifying the materials to be used in any project; and
- Focus on improving the clarity of documentation particularly the Safety Case Report.
Concerns – The Unforeseen Seven
The APS has several specific concerns:
Emphasis on individuals
APS believes the emphasis on named individuals – rather than corporate bodies – means the PI insurance needed to carry out work will be beyond the reach of many in the construction industry. The Association feels PI insurance will become so expensive: 1) projects will not be able to proceed or, at least cause delays and cost overruns; and 2) skilled professionals will be driven out of the industry both forcing people into unemployment and creating job shortages in an industry already facing trouble filling vacancies.
APS believes the Bill risks creating a perverse outcome where risky behaviour is encouraged, and safer behaviour squeezed out. This is because only people who have a high tolerance to risk (that is those who can afford it) will be left in the market as those more likely to have safety at the heart of what they do (that is those with a lesser tolerance to risk who cannot afford sky-high PI insurance costs) are forced out of construction.
Whole building overview
APS believes the Bill risks creating a focus on safety that is too narrow to be fit for purpose. The Association believes the emphasis only on height, spread of fire and structural safety risks losing a sense of the whole picture making buildings less safe.
Decoupling the principal designer
APS believes decoupling the principal designer roles – effectively creating two types of principal designer: one for health and safety and another responsible for adherence to the regulations – risks causing confusion and creating potential risk as there is no requirement in the Bill for either to consult with the other.
Making criminals of ‘lay’ directors
APS believes the Bill inadvertently creates a risk that people (like the Grenfell victims) – with, perhaps, no appropriate professional background or competence in building safety – could find themselves in the dock if a disaster happened. The Association cannot believe it is the government’s intention to criminalise victims (meaning ‘lay’ directors) – who rely on professional services and advice – holding them accountable when professional dutyholders cannot be prosecuted.
This results because the Bill places the legal duty for ensuring building safety in many of the multi-occupied residential buildings in England on the ‘Accountable Person’.
This is either for all building safety or everything except the structure and cladding. In many blocks of flats, the ‘Accountable Person’ will be a corporate entity, normally the residents’ management company or a right to manage company. The board of directors of these companies is currently to be drawn from people who become members of the management company when they purchase the lease for a flat in the property. These people may have no professional qualifications or experience in a relevant built environment discipline.
Perversely, the new professional ‘building safety manager’ dutyholder – created by the Bill – has no legally binding duties and there appears to be no offences for which they can be prosecuted.
APS believes safety depends on good team working between professionals and that every major project should have a risk expert on the project team right from concept stage. APS believes Bill creates a perverse incentive to underline team working by placing the emphasis on named individuals.
APS believes the Bill paves the way for national confusion regarding dutyholders. The Association welcomes clarity over who is responsible at each stage/ gateway but notes that, while the definition of the dutyholders will operate nationally, the Bill to which they refer is for England only.
Branding refresh aims to enhance recognition
The Association for Specialist Fire Protection reports on refreshing its branding to promote a cleaner and more simple design and to improve readability and consistency, as well as offering a more modern and versatile logo
While maintaining the ASFP’s iconic flames motif, the new logo features the flames emerging from the ASFP name. The font has also been updated to improve legibility, ensuring readers quickly gain a clear understanding of the logo with a single glance. A heavier font has been selected to emphasise the Association’s strength of voice and authority.
A new square shape for the ASFP logo offers greater versatility, while black and white versions ensure the branding can be used against a wide variety of backgrounds. Consistency is maintained with the continued use of the ASFP’s signature red flames matched with navy blue to symbolise the Association’s professionalism.
Launching the new branding, ASFP CEO Steve Davies declared: “The ASFP has a strong reputation as a leading authority on passive fire protection but our research suggests that our brand is not universally recognised and understood. Evolution of branding across our products and services has resulted in a lack of consistency and added to the dilution.
“By retaining the ASFP’s iconic flames, the refreshed logo builds on the Association’s long and successful history and its past achievements, while offering greater versatility and encouraging more rapid comprehension. The new branding aims to establish a stronger more consistent profile, which reflects the ASFP’s values of independence and authority, professionalism, technical competence and leading by excellence.
“By building a stronger brand profile, the ASFP hopes to broaden its reach and influence and re-enforce its position as the UK’s most trusted authority on passive fire protection.”
For further information on the ASFP and passive fire protection advice, visit: www.asfp.org.uk
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