14 Dec 2022
Who is the ‘Responsible Person’ Under the new Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022?
With the new Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 commencing on the 23rd of January 2023, it’s essential to understand if you are a ‘Responsible Person’ for your building and, if so, what those duties are.
Which buildings fall under the Fire Safety (England) Regulations?
The regulations apply to all buildings in England that contain two or more domestic premises (including the residential parts of mixed-use buildings). There are more requirements depending upon the height of your building as well (this applies to buildings over 11 metres in height and high-rise buildings).
These buildings are mainly blocks of flats (whether purpose-built or converted from another type of building, such as an office or house). It also includes blocks used for student accommodation.
If you are the responsible person for any of the below buildings, the Regulations will impose duties on you:
- Buildings that contain two or more sets of domestic premises
- Buildings that have common parts where residents would need to evacuate through in the event of an emergency
In the case of the buildings themselves, the Regulations apply to:
- Any part of the building that is used in common by residents of two or more domestic premises (for example, communal corridors or stairways)
- Flat entrance doors
- The walls and floors that separate any domestic premises from other domestic premises, plant rooms, etc., or from parts of the building that are used in common by the occupants of two or more domestic premises
- Plant rooms and other non-domestic areas of the building, such as tenant halls, offices, laundries, gymnasia and commercial premises
- External walls of the building, including doors or windows within an external wall and attachments to an external wall (e.g. balconies)
The Regulations do not apply to individual flats except for measures installed within residents’ flats, for example, sprinklers.
Who is the ‘Responsible Person’
The term ‘Responsible Person’ is now a legal definition, meaning building owners, for example, cannot choose to ‘make’ someone the ‘Responsible Person.’ Additionally, the Responsible Person cannot delegate the responsibility of compliance to others. In many cases, the Responsible Person will need to liaise with other parties, such as contractors like Harmony, to assist them in reaching (and maintaining) compliance.
In some circumstances, duties can also fall on people other than the Responsible Person if any of the Fire Safety Order requirements relate to matters under their control (for example, if a certain area falls under someone’s job responsibilities).
In the case of a block of flats, the Responsible Person will be who has control of the premises in relation to carrying on a business, for example, the freeholder or managing agent for the block or a residents’ management company.
If any part of the building is a workplace, the employer of persons employed to work in that workplace will be a Responsible Person. For example, if a concierge is employed or parts of the building are used for commercial purposes.
As you can see, there will be some circumstances where there is more than one Responsible Person within the same building. However, even when this is the case, overall control of the building most commonly lies with the freeholder, managing agent or residents’ management company.
Duties of the Responsible Person (General)
Information to residents:
You must display fire safety instructions in a noticeable part of the building. The instructions must be comprehensive and easy to understand.
The instructions must cover the following:
- The evacuation strategy for the building (for example, stay put or simultaneous evacuation)
- Instructions on reporting a fire (for example, the correct use of 999 or 112, the proper address to give to the fire and rescue service etc.)
- Any other instructions that tell residents what they must do when a fire has happened
These instructions must be provided directly to new residents as soon as possible after moving into the building. Moreover, you must let residents know of any amendments to the instructions due to changes to the structure of the building. You should reissue these instructions to all residents at a minimum of every 12 months.
You must also provide information about fire doors, especially residents’ flat entrance doors. These play a vital role in containing any fire which starts in the flat. You should alert residents to the following information:
- Fire doors should be shut when not in use
- Residents or guests should not tamper with self-closing devices on fire doors
- Residents should report any fault with or damage to fire doors immediately to the Responsible Person
Duties of the Responsible Person (Buildings over 11 meters in height)
Fire door checks (Communal areas):
You must check all fire doors in the communal areas of the building at least every three months. This includes:
- Doors to stairways and stairway lobbies
- Cross-corridor doors, which sub-divide corridors
- Doors to storage and electrical equipment cupboards
- Doors to riser shafts, within which various services run
When checking these doors, you must make sure that the doors effectively self-close. Self-closing doors should fully close into their frames when the doors are opened at any angle and released.
An easy way to check this is to:
- Open the door fully and then let it go
- Open the door to around 15 degrees and let it go
In both instances, the door should fully close into the frame, overcoming the resistance of any latch or friction with the floor. You should also check that doors, frames, and any glazing is undamaged and that any intumescent strips and smoke seals (where provided) are also unchanged.
Defects in the doors, frames and self-closing devices should be rectified as soon as possible.
Flat entrance door checks
You must use your best endeavours to undertake checks of all flat entrance fire doors at periods not exceeding 12 months.
You must keep a record of the steps taken to comply with this requirement, including the actions taken to gain access if a resident did not grant access to a flat for this purpose during any 12 months. In many cases, clear communication with residents can overcome access issues.
In checking these doors, you must ensure that the doors are effectively self-closing. The doors should fully close into their frames when the doors are opened at any angle and released, overcoming the resistance of any latch on the door. A simple way to perform this check is described above for communal area doors.
You should also check that doors, frames, and any glazing is undamaged (and that glazing has not been replaced with glazing that might not be fire-resisting) and that any intumescent strips and smoke seals (where provided) are also undamaged.
Any defects should be rectified immediately, depending on the identified risks. Where inspections identify the need for repair or replacement of any fire door (e.g. communal or flat entrance door), this work must be undertaken by a competent contractor such as Harmony.
The above is not an exhaustive list. You can find out more information about the new Regulations as well as the duties of the Responsible Person for high-rise buildings on the government website.