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Government publishes draft Building Safety Bill

AuthorsCharlotte McRae

Government Publishes Draft Building Safety Bill

The Government promises that this draft legislation will provide the “biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years” with the introduction of new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety in England, and for construction projects across the United Kingdom.

The draft bill was prompted by the Government commissioned Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety carried out by Dame Judith Hackitt, which in turn was prompted by the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017, in which 72 people perished.

The objectives of the draft bill are to learn from the Grenfell Tower fire, and to strengthen the whole regulatory system for building safety. The aim is to ensure that there is greater accountability and responsibility for fire and structural safety issues throughout the lifecycle of buildings, from design and construction, through to when homes are occupied, along with the introduction of a new, dedicated, Building Safety Regulator which will be a new division under the Health and Safety Executive.

The bill sets out additional requirements for the management of fire and structural safety risks in new and existing buildings deemed to be ‘higher risk’, which are defined as ‘all multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres or more in height, or more than six storeys (whichever is reached first).’

The more stringent regulatory regime for so called ‘higher risk’ buildings involves the introduction of duty holders who will have accountability and statutory responsibilities for managing risks across the design, construction and occupation of buildings on an ongoing basis. They mirror the current health and safety roles under the 2015 Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, but with increased responsibility in respect of fire safety. The principal contractor and principal designer will also be required to sign a declaration that the building complies with the building regulations.

During the course of a project, there will be three ‘gateway points’ which will provide opportunities for rigorous inspection of regulatory requirements to help ensure that building safety risks are considered during the planning, design and construction phases. It will also be necessary for a ‘golden thread’ of building information to be created, stored and updated through the ‘gateway’ process, and throughout the building’s lifecycle.

The first of the three gateways utilise the existing planning permission process. Duty holders will not be required to be in place at this stage, but information must be submitted to the Local Planning Authority which should include information about the fire safety requirements in the form of a Fire Statement. The Building Safety Regulator will provide input for all higher-risk buildings, particularly in relation to fire safety.

The second gateway is triggered prior to the construction work beginning. It provides a ‘hard stop’ where construction cannot begin until the Building Safety Regulator is satisfied that the duty holder’s design meets the building regulations requirements and does not contain any unrealistic safety management expectations, again with a particular focus on fire safety, as well as structural safety, to ensure that both are effective when the building is eventually occupied.

Gateway three arises at the point at which the building work has finished and building control will assess whether the work has been carried out in accordance with the building regulations. It is at this point that all prescribed documents and information, which will ultimately form the ‘golden thread’, must be submitted to the regulator. Once the Building Safety Regulator is satisfied, they will issue a completion certificate.

The certificate will confirm that the building is fit for occupation, as well as documenting any issues identified at the time of certification in order to promote transparency. This certificate will need to be reviewed periodically to ensure ongoing compliance with updates in building safety. The legislation will also see the mandatory reporting of fire and structural safety occurrences which could cause a significant risk to life to the new Building Safety Regulator, much like the current RIDDOR reporting system, which will likely trigger an inspection of the building.

To assist the Building Safety Regulator to carry out its functions, the Bill provides the power to establish three specific advisory committees:

When the building is occupied, an ‘Accountable Person’ must be appointed to review the ongoing fire and structural safety of the building and engage with residents over any concerns they may have and to ensure compliance. The accountable person must appoint a Building Safety Manager to deal with the safe running of the building on a day to day basis.

The bill will also allow the Building Safety Regulator to appoint a ‘Special Measures Manager’ who will replace the Accountable Person in circumstances where serious failures are identified which endanger the lives of residents.

In respect of enforcement, the Building Safety Regulator will have powers to prosecute all offences in the Bill and the Building Act 1984. Much in the same way that the HSE does currently, they will be able to issue compliance notices, requiring issues of non-compliance to be rectified by a specific deadline, and ‘stop notices’, similar to the HSE’s prohibition notices, which will result in work being stopped until a serious non-compliance is addressed. Failure to comply with such notices will be a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and an unlimited fine.

The consultation will close on 12 October 2020.

If you wish to discuss any of the issues discussed in this article, please contact Charlotte McRae

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