The Building Safety Act 2022 is a piece of legislation that often gets overlooked within organisations. Some assume that it only applies to high-rise buildings, others are overwhelmed by the details and timescales, and many get beaten back by the scale of the competencies required and don’t have the hierarchy to manage them. However, complacency could have serious consequences, from increased enforcement later down the line to serious health and safety risks. Companies that have made no attempt to prepare for the new safety regime are at real risk. In order to satisfy a safety claim, the principal accountable person must evidence what they are doing with their building to ensure their residents are safe.
In order to comply with the Building Safety Act, organisations must ensure that the principal accountable person is able to show how they are adequately managing risk. They must determine whether there is anything undermining the precept that the building is safe to occupy, evidencing what is needed to keep the building and the people within it safe. Then, they must show what the building’s risks are and how they will be managed and maintained for the future.
The Grenfell tragedy and fire safety
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry put the focus on the combustibility of the cladding, the capability of the structure to resist breaches and the fire doors along communal routes to safely support evacuation as the principal defects, along with a number of human and social failings.
The first principles set out within the Building Safety Act and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 deal with these primary tangible assets as principles for safety. As far as the safety case is concerned, the absence of evidence that the asset is safe really is evidence of absence. That causes a fundamental problem in high-risk buildings that, in the event of a fire, the evacuation time will rise to an unacceptably life-critical level.
Putting together the thread of what ‘good’ (or ‘golden’) looks like necessitates a plan of how to get to where we want to be. This gap analysis isn’t all about identifying the gaps with building safety assets; it should also help improve organisational strength that is already in place.
There is no claim that the hierarchy of building safety asset responsibility is conclusive, but this does provide accountable and responsible persons with some of the detail necessary to reduce and mitigate risk, as far as is reasonably practicable. Any building safety assets will be relative to the specific building, but each carries proportionate attributes to evidence the safety case.
Learn more about FRC’s Building Safety Compliance Service.
How to assess fire safety
When assessing a building for fire safety, different pieces of information must be considered. The level of detail required may be different, depending on the person accessing the data and the organisation. This person may be the contractor, safety manager, building occupant, insurer, etc., but nonetheless, information needs to be securely held, considered, documented, updated and evidenced when called upon digitally.
Using a fire door set as an example, we have gathered six questions that we suggest must be considered as a minimum. Below are the questions, along with the reason why they are vital to consider when performing an assessment.
What risks does the fire door set mitigate?
The assessment is fundamental to the fire risk strategy and any management plan, and it needs evidencing and updating if there is any ambiguity or future change.
To what risks is the fire door set itself susceptible?
Can the causes of current problems be identified to reduce the risk, to potentially reduce the frequency of initial checks or is there another solution or method that could reduce vandalism or tampering with door closers, as an example?
What information is needed about the fire door set to ensure it performs as required?
There needs to be a performance-certified technical specification, which also identifies how it should be maintained. This is the point at which the potential for tagging the asset starts to make sense; this means its position can be located in 2d or 3d but as an example, it avoids ambiguity in areas where there is a different door type.
What tasks/method statements/procedures are required to ensure the fire door set is installed, commissioned, inspected and maintained properly and what’s its life cycle?
This evidences the safety case, competency and how and when this is achieved, and when the door needs to be replaced. These are control measures over contractor workmanship.
What level of competency/training needs to be in place?
Competency and training need to be current, checked and documented. In the case of fire doors, there needs to be a specification of which third-party accreditations are acceptable (Trada, FIRAS, BM Trada, IFC etc.).
Why should product changes be recorded?
So that the specification remains compliant, and performance is maintained or improved over time.
In short, some of the gaps in the analysis will be things that should already be happening, and some may be possible to fill using existing and historical data. For example, the requirements of duty holders have been in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations for some time, and you may be in the enviable position of not needing to look far to see what ‘good’ looks like with existing staff, contractors or structure.
There will be a transition involved in imposing this scale of safety culture on the built environment, and yes, this is a front-ended challenge. We must make sure that the safety case report is detailed enough to gain the assurance certificate and effective enough to then address historical shortcomings safely, becoming one single source of truth.
We offer further support on understanding your responsibilities under the Building Safety Act 2022 as part of our certified CPD education sessions. Find out more here.