Authors: Miriam Hanlon and Peter Clark
The Government have been clear following the Hackitt Review and Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry: the property industry must act decisively and immediately to redress the years of ‘self-deregulation’ that contributed to the terrible tragedy in June 2017. Whilst government advice has been swift, it has also been piecemeal and without legislative change - other than banning ACM cladding systems for high rise buildings.
January 2020 saw the publication of a single, consolidated guidance document for the previous 22 MCHLG Advice Notes for the first time. The Hackitt Review and Grenfell Inquiry have made it clear that a myopic approach is no longer appropriate, instead, a portfolio-wide strategic approach to fire risk management is now required, and importantly a standardised approach should be adopted to address the shortcomings highlighted by Dame Judith Hackitt and Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
Indeed, the guidance from the MHCLG is stark in that:
“For the avoidance of doubt, building owners should follow the steps … as soon as possible to ensure the safety of residents and not await further advice or information to act.”
During the life of a building, any changes to the standard or quality of management, use of the building, or alterations proposed need to be assessed to identify their effect upon the overall fire safety strategy.
One of the most important activities an organisation can do in respect of managing fire safety across their portfolios therefore is to develop a formal Fire Safety Management System (FSMS) which includes an overall fire strategy and risk profile.
In August 2019 British Standard BS9997:2019 was published, superseding the previous framework for fire risk management systems (FRMS) PAS 7:2013. Could this be the tool to provide a strategic response to the changing landscape? Early adopters certainly believe so, with BS9997 providing a framework for an organisational-wide fire safety management system that applies the widely recognised “Plan, Do, Check, Act” model to fire safety management. It can easily be understood why.
An FRSM aligned to BS9997 will demonstrate a commitment towards fire safety to all stakeholders, including the enforcing authorities and prosecutors. So, whether you operate within a single-site company or have responsibility for a large portfolio, now is the time to seek guidance and engage with a professional competent organisation to take you on the BS9997 journey.