The government has proposed a new Fire Safety Bill (the Bill) following the Grenfell Tower tragedy to minimise fire risks and ensure residents of high-rise buildings feel safe in their homes.
The Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on 19 March 2020. The next stage will be for MPs to consider the Bill at a second reading, although no date for this has been announced. Once the Bill has passed through the necessary stages of Parliament, it is likely to be known as the Fire Safety Act 2020. The Bill amends the old legislation, the Fire Safety Order 2005 (the Order), with its objective to ensure that fire risks are reduced and managed effectively.
In particular, the Bill proposes to extend the scope of the Order to include multi-occupied domestic residential premises including blocks of flats. As a result, the responsible person for such residential premises will be required to manage and reduce the risk of fire by taking into account:
- the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows; and
- entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts.
And fire and rescue services will be given powers to take enforcement action for non-compliance.
The new Bill provides a platform for some recommendations from phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to be implemented into legislation by the imposition of new duties which include:
- undertaking a risk assessment to identify the risk to the safety of persons from fire;
- the provision of regular lift inspections with the findings summarised in monthly reports for the local fire and rescue service;
- the implementation and regular review of evacuation plans that make it clear to residents where the fire exits are located and the procedure to follow in the event of a fire;
- the provision of clear and understandable fire safety instructions to all residents; and
- the inspection of all fire doors to ensure they comply with the current legal standards.
Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “I am pleased to see the announcement of the new Fire Safety Bill. We have been calling for additional powers since 2017 and these changes should contribute to the public feeling safer in their homes.”
The Bill will also give the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government powers to amend the list of qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the Order. ‘This will be done by way of secondary legislation, enabling the government to respond quickly to developments in the design and construction of buildings.