BAFE responds to Scottish fire safety consultation

24 July 2019

The organisation has published a summary of its response to the Scottish government’s fire safety consultation on high rise domestic buildings.

In 2017 the government released new fire safety guidance in the wake of Grenfell, launching a consultation and announcing chairs for the two review groups. Last year it amended smoke and fire alarm regulations, proposed retrofitting of sprinklers and later made it mandatory for them to be installed in all new social housing.
 
New measures were announced to be coming in from October were foreshadowed late in 2018 and revealed this week, while the government consultation on high rise fire safety was also launched earlier this year. It was responding to that that BAFE has discussed, noting that the guidance created regarding fire safety in such buildings appears to ‘have been sensibly composed’, adding that at this time there is ‘nothing wrong’ with the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.
 
BAFE added that instead it is ‘rather the implementation of the legislation and accompanying Regulations wherein difficulty lies, especially the lack of clarity regarding the ongoing use and maintenance of buildings and the competence of providers’. With common areas in residential properties a ‘major focus’, BAFE noted that the duty holder and property manager have a ‘big role here’ to enforce action, such as removing items, to in turn create a safer environment.
 
It pointed out that a fire safety awareness campaign is ‘seen to be a good thing’, stressing in turn that ‘awareness campaigns with duty holders and building managers are essential’. On fire safety in existing high rise domestic buildings, the organisation commented: ‘There should be a much stronger warning [in the guidance document] against proceeding if not competent or not ensuring that service providers are competent.’
 
In turn, BAFE was disappointed at the ‘glaring omission’ of emergency lighting provision and ‘no mention’ of competent maintenance of systems, doors and lighting ‘for these to remain effective’. Fire risk assessments for common areas should be compulsory via Scottish government regulation, though BAFE welcomed the ‘emphasis placed upon third party certification of products as a way to obtain quality, reliability and safety’.
 
This would be enhanced in government guidance by ‘adding that obtaining third party certificated products is one means for the duty holder to demonstrate due diligence’, with a business and regulatory impact assessment set to be published by the government to ‘set out any expected impact that implementation of the guidance might have on a business’.
 
BAFE concluded: ‘This argument is often advanced that requiring qualifications adds to business’ burdens. BAFE is of the view that while such considerations need to be taken into account these should be secondary where defective, substandard or negligent work can lead to a threat of life. If is further of importance to say that setting basic competence standards for the quality of workmanship means that all should be able to commence at the same threshold and cost base which allows for fair competition.
 
‘The reassurance of tenants is of primary importance and their clear understanding that work is being undertaken to appropriate standards by competent providers is a key to achieving this.’
BAFE responds to Scottish fire safety consultation