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CROSS Safety Report

Fire safety concerns in a residential building

Report ID: 1213 Published: 20 May 2024 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

A reporter, who is engaged as a regulator, has carried out a fire safety audit of a residential building and has found several points of concern. It is interesting to note that CROSS is receiving a greater quantity of this type of report.

Key Learning Outcomes

For Responsible Persons, Principle Accountable Persons and Duty Holders:

  • It is important to accept responsibilities as Duty Holders and deal with fire and structural safety issues
  • Failure to rectify fire and life safety issues identified with enforcement notices may result in prosecution
  • Where risks that would potentially result in death or serious injury are identified in a higher risk residential building in England, the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) is likely to require a mandatory occurrence report. Failure to report such an occurrence is an offence. If the responsible person does not make a report they could face enforcement action, including prosecution

For regulators:

  • A prohibition notice issued on in scope buildings in England is likely to require the Accountable Person (AP) to report a mandatory occurrence to the Building Safety Regulator (BSR). Regulators should also be aware of this process and advise appropriately
  • The voluntary occurrence reporting process required under the Building Safety Act is currently fulfilled by CROSS UK and we welcome reports from all sectors regarding fire and structural safety

Full Report

Find out more about the Full Report

Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others. If you would like to know more, please visit the reporting to CROSS-US page.

The reporter describes that as a result of a fire safety audit that was carried out as part of the building risk review, a notification of deficiencies was issued. The audit identified the following issues:

  • The building includes combustible insulation incorporated within much of its external walls
  • The external walls had a poor standard of cavity barrier provision
  • There were doubts over the standard of structural fire resistance
  • There was a poor standard of fire compartmentation, identified during specific surveys which found numerous breaches in compartmentation
  • The uppermost levels were served by a single-stair
  • No commissioning certification was provided for the automatic opening vents (AOVs), with a similar absence of evidence provided to confirm the correct cause-and-effect 
  • The vents in the natural smoke shaft appear to open simultaneously, allowing smoke to travel between floors and affect multiple escape corridors

The audit, supplemented with further information gathered, led to the building being deemed unfit for occupation. A prohibition notice (PN) was served on the occupation of the top three floors and latterly extended to the whole building.

Expert Panel Comments

Find out more about the Expert Panel

An Expert Panel comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-US Expert Panel page.

This failure to identify and respond to fundamental fire safety issues such as fire spread, and compartmentation deficiencies led to residents being exposed to significant risk. Sadly, this is yet another example of deficiencies in an existing building which are all too common. 

This building appears to have multiple failures. This has resulted in such a high level of concern that it was considered unfit for occupation on the upper floors. While the prohibition or restriction of premises (or parts of premises) of this type is relatively rare, the fire and rescue services (FRS) are seeing an increase in this activity and will use these powers when required. It must be acknowledged that these decisions are not taken lightly, and the FRS are fully aware of the impact on all stakeholders. 

It is good that fire and rescue service auditors are contacting CROSS UK to raise concerns about their findings, the hope is, through this reporting, that more building owners and managers will become aware of what they should be doing in similar circumstances. 

It is good that fire and rescue service auditors are contacting CROSS UK to raise concerns about their findings, the hope is, through this reporting, that more building owners and managers will become aware of what they should be doing in similar circumstances

As the reporter doesn't comment on the height of the building, it is unclear if the building is deemed a higher risk residential building. Additionally, the Expert Panel assumes that this incident took place before in occupation mandatory occurrence reporting came into force. 

Since January 2024, in England, a mandatory occurrence report must be submitted to the Building Safety Regulator for all in occupation building safety occurrences within in scope buildings that resulted in, or are likely to result in:

  • the death of a significant number of people
  • serious injury that needs immediate treatment in hospital for a significant number of people
  • a permanent or irreversible disabling condition to a significant number of people

Significant issues that led to a prohibition notice (PN) being issued would likely constitute the risks described above. The test for the issue of a PN is similar to the test for the submission of a mandatory occurrence report.

For existing premises in England within the scope of the new, in occupation regime under the Building Safety Act 2022, the Principal Accountable Person (PAP) is required to produce a safety case.

This case must demonstrate how the premises are safe regarding building safety risk, which includes both the spread of fire, and structural failure. The Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will begin to call for applications for a building assessment certificate from April 2024. The PAP must then submit a copy of their safety case report to the BSR. The BSR will then ask the PAP to apply for the certificate - they will not be able to apply before being asked to do so.

The PAP must use the safety case to  prepare a safety case report.

For clarity, the safety case is the substantiated and reasoned risk assessment to validate the safe occupation of the building and how risks are managed. This will require an in-depth process looking at the whole building and how it is managed and occupied. It will include aspects such as fire risk, structural risks, the construction, the existing safety systems and control measures, any changes made to the original strategy and the building itself, the services infrastructure and the residents’ profile.

The safety case report is the document the BSR will call for. This document summarises the safety case for a high-rise residential building. It identifies the building’s safety risks and explains how the risks are being managed. Building safety risks are defined as the risk of the spread of fire, or structural failure.

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