Understanding the UK’s Building Safety Act in 2022
A Comprehensive Guide for the Accountable Person
Here's what we cover:
A Deeper Look Into the Background of the Act and What’s Included
The Types of Buildings the Act Applies to
Enforcing the Act: What You Need to Know
The Top Four Considerations for the Accountable Person and Safety Experts
The Grenfell Tower fire incident that took place in June 2017 is one of the UK’s worst modern disasters. Since then, there have been changes to building safety legislation in the UK to ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur again.
One of the most recent changes to building safety legislation was the introduction of the Building Safety Act. This Act is designed to improve building and fire safety in England, with the primary aim of making sure residents and all other occupants feel safer in their homes.
It’s predicted that the Act will come into effect between October 2022 and April 2023. Therefore, it’s essential for the Accountable Person and people in similar roles to have a clear understanding of what the Act looks like, the types of buildings it applies to and how it will change the future of building and fire safety legislation.
That’s exactly why we’ve created this resource. This guide is a one-stop-shop that provides you with all the crucial details about the Act to make sure you can meet all its obligations and continue to provide safe homes that meet the UK’s most recent building standards.
A Deeper Look Into the Background of the Act
Described as ‘the biggest improvement to building safety in nearly 40 years’ by the former Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, the Building Safety Act introduces new and more stringent requirements for residential buildings with a height limit of 18 meters, including factors such as fire safety and building design.
First announced in draft form in July 2020, the Act received Royal Assent on 28th April 2022. From there, fundamental changes will roll out in two phases. The first raft of changes within 12 months of Royal Assent and the second between 12-18 months after Royal Assent.
At its heart, the set of reforms within the Act is designed to close compliance loopholes and provide clearer accountability for construction products and services. Tougher ‘lifecycle’ frameworks will be set from the planning and building of a premise to its management and monitoring.
Although the Act is naturally quite extensive, there are some main points of interest it covers. These include:
The Golden Thread
One of the defining elements of the Building Safety Act is the ‘golden thread’ of information, which will act as a digital and easily accessible audit trail throughout the lifecycle of any particular building project.
This improved level of information sharing aims to ensure those responsible for a building project will have reliable, accurate and up-to-date information in a digital format. This will allow them to make better decisions and hold individuals accountable should something go wrong with the safety of a building.
The implementation of the golden thread will require individuals and organisations responsible for managing buildings to have reliable information management systems in place, as well as a clear understanding of how information management can support building safety in the future.
What Does This Mean for the Accountable Person?
The Accountable Person will play a key role in creating the golden thread for an individual project. Although the scope of what this must include hasn’t yet been set out in the regulations and guidance, it’s expected to contain documents such as:
- Operations and maintenance documents.
- Health and safety documents.
- Installation certificates.
- Risk assessments.
It'll become mandatory to submit these documents in digital format.
Duty Holder Clarification
The Act also clearly outlines the full spectrum of duty holders involved in a building project. This consists of a range of individuals, including the client, designer and contractor.
Anyone who might create a risk during their contribution to a construction or refurbishment project will be expected to manage that risk and any associated compliance demands.
Duty holders will need to work together to plan, manage and monitor the design and building work. It’s also expected that they cooperate and communicate with each other, coordinate their work and have systems in place to ensure building work, including design work, complies with all relevant building regulations.
What Does Duty Holder Clarification Mean For You?
It’s expected that the Accountable Person will remain in regular contact with other duty holders to ensure they meet compliance at every stage of the project. This includes reporting safety concerns to the Regulator throughout the lifecycle and having complete visibility over the plans of other duty holders such as designers, the client and any other contractors.
The Building Safety Act also seeks to clarify the role and responsibilities of the ‘Accountable Person’. The Accountable Person will have several statutory duties, including:
- An ongoing commitment to assessing building safety risks, taking all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence of a major incident in the building as a result of these risks.
- Providing a ‘Safety Case Report’ to demonstrate how building safety risks are being identified, mitigated and managed on an ongoing basis.
- Manage fire and structural safety risks in the building day-to-day.
How Will This Affect Your Responsibilities?
The Accountable Person is the individual who is ultimately answerable for the activity or decision. However, here are some functions the Accountable Person is expected to carry out:
- Designing and implementing a suitable and appropriate inspection regime for the higher-risk building, to ensure the operation and occupancy of the building complies with the building safety case.
- Highlighting if the building safety risk assessment and safety case are no longer valid, sufficient or that further reasonable steps need to be taken to prevent the occurrence of a major incident.
- Ensure all building, maintenance and compliance safety information is up to date and stored correctly on systems that are fit for purpose, using management reports to drive continuous improvement and compliance (maintaining the ‘golden thread’).
- Complying with all directions given and statutory notices issued by the Building Safety Regulator.
The Gateway Concept
A gateway approach to future building projects will see a stage-by-stage scoping process employed to compartmentalise each phase of a build or refurbishment rather than rely solely on potentially more ambiguous or insufficient overall final checks.
The three gateway phases are:
The Planning Phase
Statements will need to be provided to the planning authority to demonstrate that fire safety considerations have been taken into account within the project proposals. It’ll be the role of the Accountable Person to collate these statements and make sure they’re sent at the necessary time.
The Pre–Construction Phase
This gateway acts as a hard stop and a project can’t proceed to construction until the Regulator is satisfied that the building, once built, will comply with the Building Regulations and won’t have unrealistic safety management expectations.
Completion of the Construction Phase
The Client, Principal Designer and Principal Contractor will have to submit information to the Regulator and the Accountable Person regarding the as-built building. Once the Regulator is satisfied with this information, it’ll issue a completion statement accordingly.
How Will the Gateway Concept Impact Building Safety?
The Accountable Person will have a role to play during each stage of the gateway concept. They’ll be involved in fire risk assessing, building regulations, auditing, fire engineering, materials engineering, information management, resident engagement and surveying.
Tougher Criminal Sanctions
Non-compliance with building regulations has been a criminal offence for nearly 40 years. However, it has been historically difficult to hold individuals accountable.
The Building Safety Act aims to address this problem. Improved information sharing will make it easier to pinpoint negligence in a project. Having clearer accountability definitions will ensure individuals know their roles and responsibilities when achieving compliance.
Some of the criminal sanctions included in the Act involve unlimited fines and considerable jail terms, depending on the crime committed.
How Can You Be Prepared for These Sanctions?
The Accountable Person will need to make sure there are no acts of negligence on their behalf during any project stage. So, it’s essential to understand your legal obligations and remain proactive when reporting any potential issues.
The Types of Buildings the Act Applies To
The reforms being put in place by the Building Safety Act focus on high-rise residential buildings, where the spread of fire or structural flaws can lead to the loss of multiple lives.
This applies to buildings at least 18 metres in height or have at least seven storeys, including two residential units. It also applies to care homes and hospitals meeting the same height threshold during design and construction.
As part of the regulatory planning stage, the Accountable Person will need to consider the different fire equipment suitable for these types of buildings. Some of these include:
- Sprinkler Systems
- Fire Barriers
- Fire Doors
- Fire Lighting Ladders
- Emergency Access
Enforcing the Act: What You Need to Know
The new regulations included in the Building Safety Act will provide the HSE with effective enforcement and sanctioning powers. It’s important to be aware of these changes as some could have a damaging impact if they were to be imposed. These include:
Work Can Be Stopped on Site
Should any of the regulations not be followed, the regulating body has the authority to stop any further work taking place on a project. Of course, this will result in wasted resources and will negatively impact the reputation of those involved.
Occupation of the Building Can Be Stopped at Completion
The HSE also has the power to stop any type of occupation of the building once the project has been completed. Similar to the above, this would result in many wasted resources and ultimately result in a ‘failed project’ should the regulations not be followed.
The Issuing of Unlimited Fines and Prosecution
The Act also outlines that the regulating body can now hand out unlimited numbers of fines, should there be shortfalls during any stage of a building's life cycle. Depending on the severity, offenders can also be prosecuted and, in some cases, face the possibility of spending time in prison.
The Top Four Considerations for the Accountable Person
Now the Act has received Royal Assent; the Accountable Person must have a clear understanding of what may potentially change in their job role. With that in mind, it’s worth outlining the top four considerations you should keep in mind:
1. Get Ready to Go Digital
The introduction of the ‘golden thread’ means further digital investment is needed to record the lifecycle of the building. We’d recommend suring up your digital knowledge and learning how to become competent in uploading specific documents to an information management system if you haven’t already (it’s going to become a pretty big part of your job).
2. Accountability Doesn’t End After Design or Construction
The Gateway Concept has been designed to ensure all duty holders maintain a level of responsibility throughout the whole building life cycle. You should consider working with reputable compliance partners and ensure maintenance is regularly undertaken on your buildings for this to happen.
3. Define What Types of Fire Safety Equipment You’ll Need
Managing fire safety will play a key role in achieving compliance. You should clearly define what types of fire equipment you’ll need for each project you’re involved in. To get this right, we recommend working with a fire safety expert who can guide you along every step of the way.
4. Communication Is Key
Duty holders will need to work closely to meet the regulations set out in the Act. You should regularly contact your peers to support each other should you face any challenges or feel uncertain about anything. There’s a lot to take in, so it’s always worthwhile leaning on the expertise of others.
What Are the Next Steps?
You have a lot on your plate. Keeping up with regulation and remaining compliant is just one part of your busy job role. However, there’s no need to worry because companies like Ventro are experts in ensuring you can achieve compliance every time.
As we’ve touched on in this resource, fire safety will have a prominent role in the Building Safety Act. It’s crucial to ensure your buildings are safe and compliant when it comes to fire. But we know what you’re thinking; this is just one part of an even bigger picture.
Sections of the Act will change the way you work. Adapting to new digital tools regularly communicating with different peers — that’s why we’re here to offer the support you need.
Here at Ventro, we use a unique 3-step approach to fire safety that goes beyond standard compliance. We provide a range of services, from auditing and consultancy to installation and maintenance.
Helping people is what we’re passionate about and we’d love to help you. If you’re interested in finding out more about our services and how we can support your business to adapt to the changes set out in the Building Safety Act, get in touch below.