In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, the Government has brought about numerous changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, commonly known as the FSO.

With regard to the hospitality industry, this is mostly good news and has very little impact on the day-to-day operations for most businesses. They should already be following the FSO so have little to worry about.

Where this is likely to affect them is where the building has been cladded where the decorative tiles have insulation behind. These must conform to the more stringent building regulations that form part of the new fire safety act.

What this means is the cladding will need a thorough examination to ensure it conforms and is fire resistant. As many have already discovered, this is very expensive with the Government having estimated this will cost in the region of £5 billion. Experts within the construction industry believe the Government’s figure is a serious underestimation of the true cost, believing this figure could be up to ten times higher.

If your building is above 18 metres and has cladding, you will be required to have it inspected.

The Regulations

The latest improvements form Phase 3 of the Home Office’s fire safety reform programme, building on Phase 1 (the Fire Safety Act 2021) and Phase 2 (the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022).

The Fire Safety Act 2021 expanded the scope of the FSO to include the safe maintenance of the building’s structure, exterior walls, including cladding, windows, doors, and balconies.

The Act says fire risk assessments must be undertaken and updated as needed to ensure that control mechanisms are in place to guarantee that the building can be safely occupied.

The FSA 2021 and its accompanying regulations has supplied a clearer route for legal action and punishment against any Responsible Person who fails to meet their duties. Penalties for violations of fire safety regulations include unlimited fines and/or imprisonment.

Average fines for fire safety violations have skyrocketed in the aftermath of Grenfell, so it is vital the Responsible Person understands their responsibilities and can ensure the highest fire safety standards are met.

More information about the Responsible Person and their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order can be found here:

Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA) makes a number of amendments to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) to improve fire safety in all buildings regulated by the FSO.

The new regulations will improve cooperation and coordination between Responsible Persons (RPs), increase requirements in relation to the recording and sharing of fire safety information, make it easier for enforcement authorities to take action against non-compliance, and ensure residents have access to comprehensive information about fire safety in their building.

In addition, three new fire safety guides on small non-domestic premises, small blocks of flats, and small sleeping accommodation have been published to replace the old short guide to making premises safe from fire. These can be downloaded here from the Government website.

An updated fire risk assessment checklist has also been published to support Responsible Persons in understanding and meeting the new requirements.

Although there is currently no requirement for RPs to ensure that anyone they appoint to do a fire risk assessment is competent, the Government is working closely with the fire safety industry to develop a robust roll-out plan. The aim is to provide more information on this in the coming months.

If you own, manage or operate a business, you need to comply with fire safety law.

Who does the FSO apply to?

The Order applies to almost all buildings, places and structures other than individual private homes – that’s individual flats in a block or family homes.

Other places covered by the Order include shared areas in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), blocks of flats and maisonettes.

What are your responsibilities?

You need to make sure:

  1. Your premises reach the required standards.
  2. Employees are provided with adequate fire safety training.

What does ‘adequate fire safety training’ mean in practice?

It varies from business to business, but generally includes, induction training, periodic refresher training or extra training when the level of fire risks increases and training to support people in meeting their duties – for example, keeping your ‘responsible people’ up to date.

What about Fire Risk Assessments?

It’s mandatory to carry out a detailed assessment identifying the risks and hazards in a commercial premise. By law, if you are responsible for the premises, you need to make sure that a Fire Risk Assessment has been completed by a competent person.

Additionally, if you have five or more employees, or your business has a licence under enactment in force, your Fire Risk Assessment must be recorded.

The responsible person for the premises is also required to:

  • Consider who may be especially at risk.
  • Eliminate or reduce the risk of fire as far as is reasonably practical.
  • Provide general fire precautions to deal with any risk.
  • Take additional measures to ensure fire safety where flammable or explosive materials are used or stored.
  • Create a plan to deal with any emergency and where necessary record any findings.
  • Maintain general fire precautions, and facilities provided for use by firefighters.
  • Keep any findings of the risk assessment under review.