Lawyers must fix the problems with gagging orders before it is too late
In the wake of Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report, a recent investigation conducted by ITV News Tyne Tees, (‘the investigation’) has found inconsistencies in how regularly schools around the region conduct fire risk assessments.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 dictates that all schools must have a fire risk assessment completed by a ‘competent person’. This assessment involves identifying any potential fire hazards, determining who is at risk and establishing what safety measures are necessary to reduce that risk.
However, statute does not define a fixed period by which that assessment should be reviewed: save for when there are significant changes to the premises, such as an extension, conversion or an increase in occupancy.
The investigation found that, on average assessments were completed every 2 years in Hartlepool, every 5 years in Gateshead and every 9 years in Sunderland. The report also exposed that several other local authorities in the North East did not know when the last three fire risk assessments took place in their local schools.
The government is in the process of undertaking a Public Inquiry and an independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, (otherwise known as the Hackitt Report). Questions have already been raised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (‘RIBA’) as to why the review fails to cover all building types, not just those relating to high-rise and complex buildings. And if that’s right, the question arises as to whether the remit of the review should also be extended to our schools. It will be interesting to see whether the next phase of the Hackitt Report- due for release in Spring 2018- will act upon RIBA’s concerns.
Senior Associate (Barrister)
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