Bring back the fire certificate - RIBA calls for the FSO to be repealed

13 November 2017

The Royal Institute of British Architects (“RIBA”) has called for the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (“FSO”) to be repealed and for the ‘re-introduction of mandatory fire certificates for designated premises based on independent inspections by the fire brigades.’  RIBA’s Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety made the claim in their response to the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Fire certificates (issued under the Fire Precautions Act 1971) were abolished by the FSO.  Instead the FSO states that a responsible person needs to be identified and that person is required to undertake a fire risk assessment.  Often the responsible person will hire a professional fire risk assessor to undertake the task.  Such fire risk assessors are unregulated. 

However, RIBA called for the return of the system of fire certificates in the following recommendation:

R1 Repeal of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, under which building owners undertake their own fire risk assessment, and the re-introduction of mandatory Fire Certificates for designated premises, based on independent inspections by the fire brigades, with statutory powers of entry to individual dwellings where necessary.

The RIBA submission stated that the FSO ‘has been less than effective in the context of fire safety in high-rise, multiple occupancy housing in local authority or housing association ownership.’  The submission went on to state the reintroduction of formal fire certification, with responsibility for enforcement returned to the fire brigades as the fire enforcement authorities, along with rights to issue prohibition notices, must be given the most serious consideration. Alternatively, a much more rigorous, independent and regulated system of fire risk assessors needs to be implemented.”

Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety stated “The RIBA welcomes Dame Judith Hackett’s review but we believe it must be more comprehensive, addressing the details of Building Regulations guidance as well as the broader regulatory system. The review should cover all building types and construction methods, not just those relating to high-rise, multiple occupancy residential buildings. In addition to submitting evidence, the RIBA has also proposed a number of significant recommendations to the review, to enhance the future fire safety of buildings for all residents and users.”

RIBA made fifteen recommendations in total, including a Review of the “stay put” policy in high-rise, multiple occupancy residential buildings, an enhanced role for the fire brigades in assisting Building Control authorities in the fire risk assessment and the introduction of a Building Regulations requirement for central fire alarm systems. 

The Hackitt report is expected in the Spring of 2018, it will be interesting to see if it takes RIBA’s recommendations on board.  

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