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19-12-17

NFCC responds to the interim report on building regulations and fire safety

The National Fire Chiefs Council has welcomed the findings of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, following the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report.

Roy Wilsher, Chair of the NFCC, said it was encouraging that the recommendations reflect many key issues highlighted by fire and rescue services.

“The NFCC has worked closely with Dame Hackitt and her team since July, and has contributed to discussion and debate at many forums. This has complemented our written evidence which reflected the views of fire and rescue services across England and Wales.” 

The interim recommendations highlight significant fire safety matters that fire and rescue services up and down the country are concerned about, including:
  • Clarity of guidance
  • Competence of those working on the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of complex and high-risk buildings
  • Timing of consultation with fire and rescue services during the build process
  • Procedures for the handover of safety information before buildings are occupied; and
  • Fire Risk Assessments and the lack of formal qualifications

 Chief amongst these, the NFCC welcomes the recommendation to significantly restrict the use of desktop studies to approve changes to cladding and other systems.

“The NFCC agree that the use of desktop studies is not properly managed or controlled, and we’re pleased to see the review provide a strong stance on this.”

Mr Wilsher added, “I’m pleased the report has called for a fundamental cultural shift in the sector, and outlined that responsibility for ensuring correct building standards rests with those who commission, design and build. Allowing buildings to be built incorrectly at the outset, and then relying on enforcement after the fact, is not a safe or efficient use of resources for enforcers, building owners and most importantly the occupants.”

 NFCC also welcomes the strong messages in the report about competence. The NFCC worked with the sector to develop a competency framework to ensure that fire safety officers and fire engineers have the right skills which can also be applied to fire safety advisors and risk assessors. Mr Wilsher said, “We look forward to working with partners on ways that all parties in the system can acquire and maintain competence, including how we can support the skills of fire and rescue staff nationally.”

Mark Hardingham, Chair of the NFCC’s Protection and Business Safety Committee stated “I am pleased to see the report call for a stronger enforcement regime with the necessary resources to be effective.  Of course, should future changes to the enforcement landscape require fire and rescue services to increase their capacity for auditing or inspections, it will be essential that these enhanced roles are resourced appropriately to ensure they are effective and achieve the intended outcomes.”

 The report examines many other areas fire and rescue services have expressed concerns about, including confusion over common parts of buildings, the overlap of the Fire Safety Order and Housing Act enforcement regimes in residential blocks, the independence of approved inspectors, and the ability for advice from fire and rescue services to be ignored.

 Mr Wilsher added, “The interim report provides a robust steer for the sector, and demonstrates that Dame Hackitt is taking a thorough evidence-based approach to this review.”

“I am pleased to see the direction of travel signalled yesterday. The NFCC looks forward to engaging further with the review, including on any ways the NFCC and fire and rescue services can help to address the areas of concern that have been highlighted.”

The Independent review is looking at current building regulations and fire safety with a particular focus on high rise residential buildings. The interim report available on gov.uk provides the findings to date and direction of travel for the review, ahead of a final report expected to be submitted in spring 2018.

 The full original submission to the Independent review made by the NFCC in October can be read here.

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