Changes to Fire Risk Assessments

In the wake of the Grenfell Disaster, changes will be made to the way in which fire risk assessments (FRA’s) are conducted, who is responsible for ensuring FRAs are carried out and the remedial actions undertaken where necessary and, indeed, the validity and suitability of the FRA for the premises in question.

Four new types of Fire Risk Assessments are being recommended with PAS 79

So, it begs the question… Do you know which one you need?

Being brought under scrutiny are the Fire Safety Bill and the significant updates to the Publicly Available Specification from the British Standards Institution, PAS 79, for what it calls “housing premises”. This means premises in which people live, parts of which may be domestic and parts of which may not.

These changes are going to significantly increase the potential liability of landlords and duty-holders including increasing the complexity of decisions they face as to how to comply with the law. The responsibility to select the appropriate type of fire risk assessment is going to catch duty-holders out unless they are well informed.

The Fire Safety Bill

The Fire Safety Bill had its first reading in Westminster in March 2020.  Once the Bill has passed the necessary stages in Parliament, it is likely to be known as the Fire Safety Act 2020.  This will amend existing legislation (The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005) with a view to clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire for:

  • The structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows
  • Entrance doors to apartments and flats that open into common parts

This clarification will empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.

Many existing Fire Risk Assessments (FRA’s) will require updating.

PAS 79 – Significant Changes

Best practice and industry standard for FRAs is to use the PAS 79 methodology created by Colin Todd in 2005 and revised in 2007 and 2012.  With the backdrop of the Grenfell Tower fire, the housing sector is looking for more guidance that is developed specifically for housing.

The intention of this new PAS publication is therefore to combine the much-needed revision of the current PAS 79 (which will become PAS 79-1) with the development of a new housing-specific PAS (PAS 79-2), published simultaneously.

PAS 79-2 gives recommendations and corresponding examples of documentation for undertaking and recording the significant findings of fire risk assessments in housing premises and parts of housing premises for which fire risk assessments are required by legislation. Recommendations are also provided for fire risk assessments that are outside the scope of fire safety legislation but are designed to protect residents of blocks of flats, sheltered housing and extra care housing in the event of a fire in their own flat.

It is not applicable in the case of a single-family private dwelling, or applicable to premises during the construction phase, before the building is used as housing, but is applicable to vacant premises, for which a fire risk assessment is required. It is not applicable to premises used solely for short-term letting (e.g. of flats) [see 3.81] and peer-to-peer rented accommodation [see 3.70]. It is not applicable to non‑domestic premises or to residential care homes.

The draft PAS 79-2 introduces a four-tier approach..

One of the key differences in the methodology is that there is now a 4-tiered approach to FRAs in the housing sector. (This 4-tier approach is not in PAS 79-1). The first draft proposal of this 4-tier approach is as follows;

  • In England and Wales, a Type 1 fire risk assessment is the basic fire risk assessment required for the purpose of satisfying the Fire Safety Order.
  • Although a Type 1 fire risk assessment is limited in scope primarily to common parts of blocks of flats, sheltered housing and extra care housing, inspection of the building includes examination of at least a sample of flat entrance doors and reasonably accessible service risers.
  • The action plan of a Type 1 fire risk assessment (see 3.2) might include a recommendation for a Type 2, Type 3 or Type 4 fire risk assessment to be carried out (e.g. if the Type 1 FRA identifies cause for concern that justifies intrusive inspection and/or consideration of fire safety within flats).

Type 2 FRA

A fire risk assessment that includes all work within the scope of a Type 1 fire risk assessment, and so is non-intrusive, but also takes into account the arrangements for means of escape and fire detection (usually by means of smoke alarms) within at least a sample of the flats.

Within the flats, the inspection is non-intrusive, but the fire resistance of doors to rooms is taken into account. The draft notes;

  • A Type 4 fire risk assessment is normally appropriate only in limited circumstances, such as when a new landlord takes over a block of flats in which the history of works carried out is unknown and there is reason to suspect serious risk to residents from both a fire in their own flats and a fire in neighbouring flats.
  • The nature of the work involved in a Type 4 fire risk assessment is such that, often, intrusive inspection within flats can only be carried out in vacant flats.
  • The work of opening up and making good is normally carried out by a contractor, rather than the fire risk assessor.

Be aware…

Duty holders including local authorities therefore need to be certain which type of FRA they wish to be carried out on particular premises.  Failure to have the correct type of FRA could result in significant detriment in the event of fire including a lack of insurance being paid out.

Assets & Compliance Managed Services UK comment..

The changes were to be expected of course but duty holders will need to be prepared, take on board the modifications relevant to them and their property portfolios and be able to incorporate the relevant changes into their FRA’s for future assessments.  To ignore them will be foolhardy and could be expensive.

As Vision is completely customisable, any changes can be easily incorporated within the Fire Module.  There is a free template available in Vision for those interested in exploring what the software has to offer – call us if you believe, like us, we can help.