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Navigating Fire Safety Compliance: Insights from England's Regulations & best Practices for Scotland

Updated: Jan 3



Introduction and Background 


At the beginning of 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 came into force in England. The Regulations contain 12 individual regulations, many of which have been developed following the findings of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. The Regulations have imposed some new and more stringent fire safety responsibilities on owners of residential premises in England, including some specific requirements relating to high-rise buildings.


The regulations do not apply in Scotland, but many of the requirements exist in the form of recommendations by the Scottish Government. It is important that dutyholders are aware of the requirements contained within the regulations as legislative changes in England often act as a precursor to legislative changes, or the development of best practice, in Scotland. As an example, in England there is a legal requirement to carry out Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) in communal areas of domestic premises. This is not a legal requirement in Scotland. However, it is strongly recommended by the Scottish Government that FRAs are carried out by a competent person. Following the fires at Grenfell Tower and Lakanal House, there has been an increased focus on ensuring that FRAs are carried out and, if a fire were to break out at a premises that did not have an up-to-date FRA, the dutyholder could incur high levels of liability. This has essentially led in practice to a requirement to carry out FRAs in the common areas of domestic properties in Scotland, despite their being no legal requirement to do so.


Similar situations have occurred relating to topics other than fire safety. For example, recent incidents in England relating to the crumbling of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in public buildings have led to more stringent control measures being introduced in England. This in turn had prompted the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) to write to social landlords requiring them to carry out stock surveys to identify where RAAC is present, monitor its condition and develop procedures for managing RAAC. Similarly, following the tragic death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak in England due to the presence of damp and mould in the family’s home, more rigorous measures have been implemented in England to ensure that damp and mould is managed more effectively in the social housing sector. This has, again, led to the requirement for more robust policies, procedures and record keeping requirements for social landlords in Scotland in relation to their management of damp and mould.


As such, it is important for dutyholders in Scotland to stay up to date with legislative changes and improvements in best practice in all areas of health and safety, including fire safety implemented in England and to consider if there is a need to implement similar control measures within their own housing stock.


Specific Requirements in The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022


Most of the requirements within the Fire Safety Regulations are only applicable to high rise buildings, defined in Regulation 3 as a building that is at least 18 metres above ground level or has at least seven storeys. However, there are also some Regulations that apply to all residential buildings. Regulation 9 requires responsible persons to provide fire safety instructions to tenants in a format that is easy for tenants to understand. The information must include instructions relating to the evacuation strategy for the building, instructions as regards how to report a fire to the fire and rescue authority, and any other instruction that tells residents what they must do when a fire has occurred. This information must be provided to new tenants at the start of their tenancy and to all tenants on an annual basis.


Following the findings in the Grenfell Inquiry that the failure of self-closing devices on flat entrance doors contributed significantly to the loss of compartmentation in Grenfell Tower and increased the rate of fire spread, Regulation 10 of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations was developed. Regulations 10(1)–(3) relate to fire doors in all domestic premises with a communal area through which residents would evacuate in the case of a fire. Relevant persons must provide residents with information on fire doors including that fire doors should be kept shut when not in use, residents or their guests should not tamper with the self-closing devices and that residents should report any faults or damages with doors immediately to the responsible person. This information must be provided to new tenants at the start of their tenancy and to all tenants on an annual basis.


In addition, for high rise domestic properties specifically, Regulations 19(4)–(6) state that responsible persons must use their “best endeavours” to undertake checks of fire doors at the entrances of individual domestic premises in the building at least every 12 months and undertake checks of any fire doors in communal areas of the building at least every 3 months. Steps taken to carry out these checks and gain access to properties, where required, must be recorded.


The Scottish Position


  • Fire door checks are recommended by the Scottish Government. 

  • In the Scottish Government document Fire safety - existing high rise domestic buildings: practical guidance ( last updated in February 2022), it is recommended that fire doors safety doors are inspected every six months in the communal areas of high rise domestic buildings. 

  • In general, there is no similar recommendation for the common areas of general low rise domestic premises at present. However, there are recommendations for some types of specialised accommodation for example HMOs and Care Homes. 

  • As there is an increased media and political interest around domestic fire safety and specifically around inspections such as Fire Risk Assessments and Fire Door, there may be further recommendations or legal requirements to come into force in Scotland.


Recommendations


As can be seen, there are clear legal requirements in England, and recommendations from the Scottish government, to carry out regular checks on fire safety doors in communal areas of high rise domestic premises and to flat front entrance doors. It is recommended that responsible persons in control of high rise domestic premises develop a suitable inspection programme that meets, at a minimum, the recommendation of the Scottish Government, though it is recommended that the more stringent approach outlined in the English legislation is followed in order to demonstrate best practice.


In addition, although there are no strict legal requirements or recommendations set out regarding inspection of fire doors in the communal areas of most domestic premises, it is recommended that responsible persons develop similar programmes of inspection, as outlined above. Although not mandatory, this allows an organisation to demonstrate best practice to any interested party and to demonstrate the organisation being the forefront of risk management in an area that is currently under considerable media and political scrutiny throughout the UK.


If you require further advice or guidance on developing and implementing fire door inspection or carrying out Fire Door Inspections or Fire Safety Risk Assessments contact our Health and Safety Consultant, Aimilia at aimilia@acsrisk.com.



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