From 1 October 2023, new fire safety legislation comes into effect which will impose new duties on businesses and buildings owners. The changes in legislation are also known as Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022, and they are in addition to the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and the Fire Safety Act 2021 which commenced last summer.
The Fire Safety Order is the primary fire safety legislation in England and Wales, and it applies to all non-domestic premises as well as the communal parts of residential buildings. Changes to this legislation have been introduced through the Building Safety Act 2022 and represent the next phase of the governments fire safety reform programme.
The main changes introduced by the legislation are:
The previous requirement to have a written fire risk assessment only applied in certain circumstances (e.g. where the responsible person employees five or more persons). This will no longer be the case, and if you are a responsible person, then you will need to record both your fire risk assessment and fire safety arrangement in full, regardless of the size or purpose of the business or premises.
In premises where there is more than one responsible person, for example in multi-occupied premises or buildings where the occupier and building owner are different entities, there are increased requirements for cooperation and coordination between responsible persons.
In residential buildings with two or more domestic premises (e.g. blocks of flats) then the responsible owner must provide residents with information on the risks from fire within their building and the fire safety measures provided to keep them safe. This requirement expands upon legislation introduced earlier this year that required responsible persons to provide residents with information on emergency procedures and the importance of fire doors.
For further information on all the changes and what you need to do to comply, the Government has published guidance which is available on the Government's website - Fire safety responsibilities under Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022
Section 156 is an amendment to existing fire safety legislation known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. These amendments are enacted under the Building Safety Act 2022.
These amendments form Phase 3 of the Home Office’s commitment to fire safety reform, building on Phase 1 and 2 (the Fire Safety Act 2021 and Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 respectively).
The amendments are designed to improve fire safety in all buildings regulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Several changes have been made to the existing Articles of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This includes:
improving cooperation and coordination between Responsible Persons
increasing and strengthening requirements in relation to recording and sharing of fire safety information
improving access to information for residents about fire safety in their buildings
making it easier for enforcing authorities to take action against non-compliance.
A full list of duties for all responsible persons can be found on the Government’s website.
1 October 2023.
The legislation has been changed so that most of the new requirements under these amendments apply to all non-domestic premises including, but not limited to:
Any place of work
Places where people visit or stay
Non-domestic parts of multi-occupied residential buildings such as communal corridors, stairways and plant rooms
The requirements do not apply within individual domestic premises that do not form part of a multi-occupied building.
In Cheshire, the enforcing authority for these premises is predominantly Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.
You may receive a visit from a Fire Safety Inspecting Officer who will request to see records to show that you are managing your fire safety effectively.
The new legislation supports the status of what is known as “Article 50” risk-based guidance. This means that the guidance has been agreed and approved to be used by the Secretary of State.
Under the new legislation, this guidance can be used in court proceedings to determine whether compliance has been achieved or whether a deviation from guidance has resulted in a breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
HM Government provides a suite of risk-based guidance bespoke to different types of premises and various levels of risk.
Where the Responsible Person (RP) appoints a person to make or review the fire risk assessment, they must be competent.
However, this legal requirement will be brought into force at a later date than those commencing from 1 October 2023.
Until such time, it is recommended that you ensure that any person completing or reviewing a fire risk assessment has sufficient training, experience, knowledge and other qualities to do so.
The duty to make sure that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is completed remains the duty of the RP.
The penalty for any offence that is found to have been committed from 1 October 2023 under Article 32 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 has been increased.
This means that the maximum level of fine for offences has changed from Level 3 (£1,000) to Level 5 (Unlimited) fine as determined by HM Courts.
The increase in penalty will only be effective for offences committed after 1 October 2023. Any offence committed before this time will carry the former maximum penalty of a Level 3 (£1,000) fine per offence.
This change is to reflect the seriousness of fire safety offences in aligning them with all other offences; and to act as a deterrent against non-compliance.
Last updated: Monday, 13 November 2023