Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, the suitability of existing fire safety legislation has been much debated and publicised. To improve the fire safety of buildings in England and Wales, the Fire Safety Bill was introduced by the Home Office and in April 2021 received Royal Accent, setting in on the path to becoming law.
Amending the existing Fire Safety Order 2005, the First Safety Act 2021 (as it is now known) clarifies several points, including the responsibilities of duty-holders and/or building owners, known as ‘Responsible Persons’.
What Is The Fire Safety Act 2021?
The Bill has been designed to ‘ensure that people feel safe in their homes and a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire will never happen again.’
The changes that come with it mostly apply to multi-occupied, residential buildings – any premises that comprise of anything other than a single dwelling. This means that a house converted into two flats needs a risk assessment and adequate fire safety measures as well as a high-rise building with hundreds of apartments.
Now, the responsible person – such as the leaseholder – must ensure a fire risk assessment is completed for the structure and the external walls, including the doors and windows within those walls, and attachments such as balconies, cladding and insulation. Action to remove or negate the risks identified must then be taken.
Another area of clarification is the responsibility of entrance doors to individual flats that open into communal areas; these now fall to the responsible person to ensure are fully compliant and maintained. The fire doors will need to have all the correct intumescent and fire-rated hardware, as well as a risk assessment.
Additionally, the Fire Safety Act now makes enforcement action against responsible persons – prosecution for instance – far easier by the fire service and Government. As such, risk assessments are your best defence as they enable you to not only ensure you’re doing everything practically possible to prevent and protect against fire in the first place, but also to prove it.
When Do These Changes Come Into Effect?
Although the law was passed on the 29th of April 2021, it is unlikely that the Fire Safety Act will be bought into force until the end of this year or the beginning of 2022 – the Government has yet to set a date. Once the date is announced, there will likely then be a grace period before the updated legislation is enforced.
The new Fire Safety Order is also designed to make it easier for additional legislation – such as those based on the recommendations made when the Grenfell Tower Inquiry concludes – to pass into law.
Of course, we recommend that responsible persons act now to ensure their residential buildings are already compliant with the new legislation. You can do this by making sure you’re familiar with the materials used within the structure and external walls and their fire prevention merits, as well as ensuring all risk assessments and maintenance is up to date.
Within your properties, you should make sure the doors between flats and communal areas are fire doors, in good condition and kitted out with sufficient fire-rated and intumescent materials. These may include fire and smoke seals around the door, intumescent letterboxes and fire-rated hinges, latches, and door viewers.
Check out our full range of products designed for fire doors and windows and start ensuring your doors are compliant now.