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September 14, 2021

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Building safety

New laws on building safety proposed to Parliament

A key element of the proposals is that that certain buildings will require a safety case when they are occupied.

The HSE has released a document which aims to help those who manage or are responsible for a building covered by the proposed laws to understand what a safety case is.

It is stressed that requirements of the new legislation are not yet confirmed and could be changed by the Parliamentary law-making process. As such, it is noted that there are currently no legal obligations to do anything about safety cases.

However, preparing for the proposed new regime now can help ensure the foundations of the systems and procedures that may be needed are in place, if and when the new law takes effect.

The principles described may also help with meeting existing requirements under fire safety and housing legislation aimed at managing and controlling specific risks in buildings.

This document does not address the different configurations of modern residential buildings (for example, those comprising a combination of commercial, retail and residential use). More complex buildings and ownership arrangements will mean that there are more issues that need to be taken into consideration when building a safety case.

The HSE document points out that future publications will explore the additional steps that may be needed. However, the basic principles in this document will still be relevant for more complex buildings and it is suggested to start preparations now before more comprehensive material is issued.

Different building safety laws will apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Safety cases for high-rise residential buildings

The proposed new regime aims, among other things, to make sure that buildings in scope in England:

  • Are designed and constructed to be safe and of a good standard.
  • Are operated and managed in a way that protects people from the spread of fire or structural failure and reduces the severity of a serious incident.

Buildings in scope are those at least 18 metres in height, or have at least seven storeys, and contain at least two residential units. This includes multi-use buildings (buildings with residential dwellings and other uses, for example shops).

The new laws propose that people who manage or are responsible for high-rise residential buildings will have to take all reasonable steps to make sure their buildings are safe, put together a safety case and produce a safety case report. To meet these proposed new requirements, the following will need to be undertaken:

  • Demonstrate how the building is being kept safe.
  • Demonstrate why the measures in place to prevent and limit the consequences of a major accident in your building are sufficient and effective.
  • Demonstrate that there is a robust approach to the ongoing management of the building to make sure those measures remain effective. This requires thought about the building holistically and to think of it as a system, says the document.

The safety case approach will help to implement measures that are proportionate and effective and ensure that people in and around your high-rise residential building are safe.

The document defines a safety case and offers advice on how to build one, as well as explaining what a safety case report is and what it should contain.

It is available in full here.

Read more on the Building Safety Bill, here.

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