THE GOVERNMENT stated in parliament that owners ‘or other responsible entities’ managing blocks ‘are responsible’ for fire safety, after a question to Housing Minister Christopher Pincher.

BAFE reported on the question posed by MP Apsana Begum to Mr Pincher, with the minister asked ‘whether he plans to provide funding for remedial work to buildings which do not comply with fire safety regulations but do not have problems relating to cladding’. He said in response that building owners ‘or other responsible entities managing blocks of flats are responsible for the safety of their buildings’, and reiterated the cladding funding made available by the government.

Mr Pincher added that the funding ‘to support the remediation of unsafe cladding on buildings of 18 metres and above […] reflects the exceptional fire risk that certain cladding products pose at that height, as noted by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent report’. He warned however that while the government had ‘intervened to assist’ with the funding, this ‘does not absolve industry from responsibility and taking action’.

The government ‘expect[s] developers, investors and building owners to cover remediation costs themselves, meeting their legal and contractual obligations, recovering costs or drawing on warranties where applicable, without passing on costs to leaseholders’. He concluded: ‘This government is determined to identify suitable financing solutions, remove barriers to remediation, and protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs.

‘The government has asked Michael Wade to accelerate work with the financial sector to identify affordable solutions, and we will be updating the House.’

BAFE noted that fire and rescue services and the fire safety sector, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, had ‘stressed’ that fire safety obligations ‘must continue to be met to provide a safe environment from fire’, and any additional measures introduced during the pandemic ‘must also acknowledge all health and safety and fire safety requirements on site’, with all needing to ‘work together in the interest of life safety and protection’.

Stephen Adams, BAFE’s chief executive, stated: ‘This issue is very interesting, as it raises huge questions of misunderstanding of fire safety legislation and responsibilities. The Minister of State is completely right, building owners should already be implementing any remedial work required to meet these obligations. This misunderstanding is precisely why BAFE demand stronger government issued guidance on who is considered competent to provide essential life safety work.’

The organisation also cited its submission to the government’s recent fire safety consultation, in which it commented: ‘The BAFE Fire Safety Register (and the whole UKAS accredited competency sector) demand greater government issued guidance on who is considered competent to provide essential life safety work.

‘This must be at the same level of HSE guidance, which can then be used to lawfully judge who was at fault for any safety breaches under the FSO [Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005] and included in any statutory defence. With many buildings not having a dedicated fire safety officer, these responsibilities are just a part of another staff members/owners’ duties and clearer guidance must be issued for quick reference to ensure they remain compliant to the law.

‘Stipulating what is required to determine competency can assist in sourcing quality providers to help them meet their fire safety responsibilities with due diligence. Compliance will improve with mandated competency levels that must be adhered to and specified, thus appropriately regulating the industry with no additional cost to government.’

The FPA is seeking to support building owners and managers, and help them to understand the full extent of their responsibilities, in our new #KnowYourBuilding campaign. Find out more here, or start the blind spot calculator to find out your fire safety blind spots here.