With so many competing demands on student residential accommodation providers, the challenge of continuing to focus on enhancing fire safety arrangements is ever increasing. Adding to these existing challenges is the introduction of new fire safety legislation starting this year.
To help maintain focus, it is worth reminding ourselves that a little over a year ago there was a significant fire at The Cube student accommodation block linked to the University of Bolton, where a significant fire broke out which saw 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines tackling the fire. Thankfully all occupants were safely evacuated.
The Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) subsequently published their incident report, which covers the impact of the flammable cladding on the severity of the fire, in a sadly familiar echo of Grenfell. The report finds that the fire was most likely started by a cigarette discarded on a balcony.
New Fire Safety Legislation
This year will see the introduction of amended fire safety legislation. The Fire Safety Bill will amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) and is expected to result in greater clarity over the responsibility for fire safety in buildings.
Following the Grenfell Fire in 2017, the government has taken a number of steps around fire safety, and this bill forms part of that response.
The bill clarifies that, for any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises, the RRO applies to the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts, including the front doors of residential parts. It also clarifies that external walls in the order include “doors or windows in those walls” and “anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).”
The bill extends and applies to England and Wales, with separate fire safety legislation in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It is also important to be aware of the Draft Building Safety Bill which, although not anticipated to become law until 2022/23, will also have a significant impact on how fire safety is managed in student residential accommodation in future.
Preparing for these new requirements
From what we already know, it is clear that the introduction of these two bills will require a significantly greater amount of compliance documentation to be made readily available digitally, in relation to high rise buildings.
Meridian, William Martin Compliance’s market-leading health and safety management platform, has developed a fire safety module which will support property managers to demonstrate compliance through the ability to digitally host, track, share and manage specific high rise building document sets.
Furthermore, William Martin Compliance is also able to support property managers in complying with all their fire safety compliance requirements including:
- fire risk assessments
- fire strategies
- fire engineering consultancy
- fire safety training
For more information, please visit www.wmcompliance.co.uk
A need for change
In starting 2021 with a renewed focus on fire safety management, it is helpful to remind ourselves of previous events, as historically there is a tendency for the immediate impact of these events to be less felt over time. Inevitably, in time, people forget the principal drivers for amending legislation and instead see changes as sometimes presenting unreasonable burdens on businesses.
The new fire legislation being introduced this year and in future years appears to be placing reasonable and pragmatic demands on those responsible for maintaining fire safety standards across high-rise residential buildings. These must be considered as essential changes, necessary to reduce the risk and prevent further major fire safety disasters. All of us should continue to constructively challenge anyone who may take an alternative view.
For more information, contact:
Phil Jones CMIOSH
Technical director, William Martin Compliance Ltd