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Property fire safety

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The recently published Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 Report has raised many issues as to how fire and health & safety is managed in buildings. Our health & safety consultants, S2 Partnership, have produced the attached summary of the recommendations of the inquiry and the following is our own briefing of this.

 

The Grenfell Inquiry report is an opportunity for change. Do not let it slip by. It has long been the case that landlord’s and property managers have not given fire safety and health & safety in buildings they look after the full and proper attention required.

 

It is important to note that the recommendations are noted as relating to all buildings both residential and commercial and not just to high rise properties, although some of the recommendations are specific to those.

 

The sector must not wait for government – the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s phase one report offers the opportunity to make changes now and landlords, surveyors and property managers should take a proactive approach and plan to implement the recommendations of the inquiry report even before government implementation. It should never be too late to act.

 

The main thrust of the report suggests that there was no contingency plan for the evacuation of Grenfell Tower in the London Fire Brigades (LFB’s) operational risk database for buildings and what information there was on the tower was either wrong or out of date because it did not account for the refurbishment.

 

The British Safety Council welcomed recommendations of the report relating to proactive fire door inspections, enhanced firefighting lift inspections and a significant increase in the provision of information to the fire enforcing authorities.

 

The report recommends new legal duties on owners and managers of high-rise residential buildings in particular but is clear that many of the recommendations also relate to low rise and commercial property.

 

The British Safety Council has advised that it is calling for the government to consider the implementation of the following from the executive summary of the report:

  • Legal requirement for the provision of up-to-date plans to the local fire and rescue service and provision of a premise’s information box on site. These information boxes are to also include information about the construction of the building, fire lifts as well as details of any occupants whose ability to evacuate may be compromised by disability or other circumstances. Any changes in this information should be notified to the authorities.
  • Legal requirement for enhanced, monthly checks of firefighting lifts and provision of information to the local fire and rescue service.
  • Provision (for all existing and future buildings) for the local fire and rescue service to be able to send an evacuation signal to all residents of high-rise buildings.
  • Legal requirement for owners and operators of every residential building to provide information and instruction to residents in a format that can be reasonably understood by all,
  • Urgent inspection of all fire doors of every residential building which contains separate dwellings, as well as a legal requirement to inspect fire doors on a quarterly basis.
  • Amongst the many recommendations in the report, putting evacuation plans in place for all high-rise buildings is paramount. Building owners and managers would be required by law to develop evacuation plans for all high-rise buildings if adopted, but it is not yet known how these changes will impact the sector in terms of legal obligations.
  • However, whether residential or commercial, all multi-occupied buildings should have proper evacuations plans that are regularly advised to all occupiers.
  • Personally, develop plans for residents whose ability to evacuate themselves is compromised by disability or other circumstances.
  • The provision for all buildings of alarm systems, building plans, construction information, emergency procedures and fire lifts to emergency services and for electronic and physical copies to be immediately available both on site and remotely.
  • An “urgent” inspection of fire doors in all properties with separate dwellings – not just high rises.
  • Improvements to fire signage.
  • “Vigorous” progress in the slow rate of the removal of dangerous cladding – with particular attention to be applied to decorative features that could allow a fire to spread horizontally.
  • The provision of evacuation strategies which will include the retrofitting of manual or smart alarms to alert residents.
  • The provision of clearly marked floor numbers, on each landing, stairwells and in a prominent place in all lobbies to be highly visible in normal and low lighting or smoke.

 

In consultation with S2 Partnership, we can assist all landlords to ensure the health and safety compliance of their buildings from initial risk assessment to implementation of compliance works and the provision of fire and evacuation guidance to all occupiers of their buildings.

 

If you would like more information please contact Craig Silver here.

 

This blog was taken from our latest Briefing Notes: Issue 94, if you would like to read more commercial and residential briefing notes then click here.