The biggest change to building safety legislation in a generation

Posted: 11th November 2021 Ben Kelly, Senior Technical Consultant

The Building Safety Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent, and be written in law next summer and the new regime is expected to be fully underway 12 – 18 months thereafter. This represents the biggest change to building safety legislation in a generation.  Is your organisation ready?

The Bill looks to implement the recommendations laid out in Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety which called for a significant culture change and regulatory overhaul to ensure a real commitment to delivering building safety is required of Registered Providers (RPs). The Bill will ensure clear accountability and sets out significant consequences of noncompliance.

What does the Building Safety Bill change?

The Bill establishes a new Building Safety Regulator held within the HSE to oversee a strict regulatory regime to improve Building Safety standards and places new responsibilities on duty holders.

The Bill places the legal responsibility for building safety on those defined as Accountable (typically freeholders).

It will be the responsibility of the Accountable Person to “Take all reasonable steps to prevent a major incident occurring (a major incident being defined as leading to a significant number of deaths or serious injury to a significant number of people) because of a building safety risk materialising and to reduce the severity of the incident.”

One of the key requirements of the Bill is for those defined Accountable Persons to produce and continually update a Building Safety Case for individual high-risk residential buildings (HRRBs). This will identify risk and provide a structured argument that sets out why the Accountable Person considers the building is safe to occupy. It will confirm a building is designed, constructed, operated and managed in such a way that protects residents from major incidents arising from fire spread or structural failure.

Responsible person for Building Safety

The organisation/individual that is the Responsible Person will need to evidence that they have a full set of digital information relating to the construction and operation of each building, appropriate risk assessment and mitigation policies and processes in place, competent staff and they are adequately engaged with residents.

The Building Safety Case will be required by the newly created Building Safety Regulator (under the HSE). Individual buildings and the organisations that operate or manage them will be licensed. The risks for building operators and individuals that work for them are high; noncompliance with the requirements of the act will be a criminal offence, with Responsible Persons facing a penalty of an unlimited fine and/or 2 years imprisonment.

Safety Cases will be a new concept to many

With the requirement for the production of Safety Cases, and for a “Golden Thread” of digital building information, comes the requirement to manage building information on a scale and breadth that goes beyond anything most RP’s have seen before. New processes, policies, procedures, roles and staff competencies will be required. Partner organisations such as contractors and service providers will need to be required to demonstrate staff competency and contribute to the information that supports the ongoing maintenance of an accurate digital record.

Organisations have their work cut out, but the task is not insurmountable. It is important to begin preparations as early as possible.

What will the Safety Case need to include?

Although the regulator has not made the specifics clear and has not provided a template or specification for safety cases yet. Through our work to date, we know the Bill, in its current form, places a requirement on Responsible Persons to manage fire and structural risks that could result in any major risk.

It is important that organisations keep the following in mind as they prepare for the legislation to be implemented:

  • The Safety Case should be structured on a ‘Claim’, ‘Argument’ and ‘Evidence-based’ approach.
  • It must be simple, to the point and proportionate.
  • The safety case should not be approached as a ‘tick box exercise’ in keeping the regulator happy.
  • The information included in the Safety Case is to be communicated and shared with residents.

From our work supporting organisations to implement the recommendations from the Hackett Review, we know that a Safety Case is likely to include:

  • Safety Case Statement (the ‘Claim’ being made) – a statement explaining why the building is safe to occupy.
  • Safety Case Report (the ‘Argument’) – a report detailing an argument/story as to why each key element is considered safe.
  • Digital Record (the ‘Evidence’ supporting the claim)- a record of key building safety and organisational policy and process information

The development of Safety Cases for buildings and the implementation of the ‘Golden Thread’ throughout the organisation, is certain to be a significant undertaking that is going to require focus, investment, effort, culture change and organisational change.

Need some support to understand your requirements?

For an informal discussion about the next steps on your organisation’s journey to future building safety compliance, please contact Ben Kelly at ben.kelly@altairltd.co.uk

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