Fire risk assessments: how often must they be done?
There are no specific time periods in law for how often fire risk assessments must be carried out or reviewed....
By Kavita Bharti – Legal Adviser
On 26 May 2020 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published amendments to the guidance in Approved Document B (fire safety) volume 1 following their consultation on sprinklers and other fire safety measures in new high-rise blocks of flats which was launched in September 2019. The changes are:
- Sprinkler systems should be fitted in blocks of flats with a top storey more than 11m above ground level; and
- Wayfinding signage for the fire and rescue service should be provided in blocks of flats with a top storey more than 11m above ground level. It was agreed that there should be a more consistent approach to wayfinding signage for fire and rescue services in Approved Document B.
This change in guidance came into force on 26 November 2020. The 2019 edition of approved Document B will continue to apply where a building notice or an initial notice has been given to, or full plans deposited with, a local authority before 26 November 2020 and either the building work to which it relates:
- has started before that day; or
- is started before 29 January 2021.
The circular letter sent by MHCLG states that the Approved Documents will continue to note that sprinklers in residential blocks of flats do not need to be provided in common areas when these are fire sterile. It is also important to note that new accommodation, formed by building work, should meet the relevant requirements having considered the guidance in the approved document. This means making sure that the standard of fire protection for the occupants of the new accommodation is as would be provided for a new building under the approved document.
In the majority of cases, therefore, sprinkler protection and wayfinding signage will be necessary in any newly formed accommodation that falls above the new 11m trigger height. It may also be necessary to consider additional protection for the existing parts of the building where needed to ensure that the extension is compliant with the applicable requirements of Schedule 1. Equally, it will be necessary to satisfy regulation 4(3) by ensuring that the level of fire protection in the building as a whole is made no worse. There may also be situations where the risk assessment for the building (provided under the Fire Safety Order) requires further work to be done. Regardless of the minimum requirements of the regulations there is, of course, merit in providing additional protection throughout the building.
Further information on the amendments to the guidance on sprinklers can be found here
What are the key changes
The amendments do not prescribe a particular material or technology that should be used for this signage, such as photoluminescent lettering. But they do set out that the signage should be on a contrasting background, easily legible and readable in low level lighting conditions or when illuminated with a torch.
The following has been inserted into volume 1 of the original document at Section 15: Access to buildings for firefighting personnel – flats:
Wayfinding signage for the fire service
15.13 To assist the fire service to identify each floor in a block of flats with a top storey more than 11m above ground level (see Diagram D6), floor identification signs and flat indicator signs should be provided.
15.14 The floor identification signs should meet all of the following conditions.
- The signs should be located on every landing of a protected stairway and every protected corridor/lobby (or open access balcony) into which a firefighting lift opens.
- The text should be in sans serif typeface with a letter height of at least 50mm. The height of the numeral that designates the floor number should be at least 75mm.
- The signs should be visible from the top step of a firefighting stair and, where possible, from inside a firefighting lift when the lift car doors open.
- The signs should be mounted between 1.7m and 2m above floor level and, as far as practicable, all the signs should be mounted at the same height.
- The text should be on a contrasting background, easily legible and readable in low level lighting conditions or when illuminated with a torch.
15.15 The wording used on each floor identification sign should take the form Floor X, with X designating the number of the storey, as intended for reference by residents. The floor number designations should meet all of the following conditions.
- The floor closest to the mean ground level (see Diagram D4) should be designated as either Floor 0 or Ground Floor.
- Each floor above the ground floor should be numbered sequentially beginning with Floor 1.
- A lower ground floor should be designated as either Floor –1 or Lower Ground Floor.
- Each floor below the ground floor should be numbered sequentially beginning with Floor –1 or Basement 1.
15.16 All floor identification signs should be supplemented by flat indicator signs, which provide information relating to the flats accessed on each storey. The flat indicator signs should meet all of the following conditions.
- The signs should be sited immediately below the floor identification signs, such that the top edge of the sign is no more than 50mm below the bottom edge of the floor identification sign.
- The wording should take the form Flats X–Y, with the lowest flat number first.
- The text should be in sans serif typeface with a letter height of at least half that of the floor indicator sign.
- The wording should be supplemented by arrows when flats are in more than one direction.
- The text and arrows should be on a contrasting background, easily legible and readable in low level lighting conditions or when illuminated with a torch.
NOTE: In the case of multi-storey flats with two or more entrances, the flat number should only be indicated on the normal access storey.
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