What are we going to do?
The Building Safety Bill introduces new requirements for building owners to assess and manage building safety risks in high-rise residential buildings. The Bill sets out that reasonable measures must be taken to manage the risk of the spread of fire and structural failure, to prevent their occurrence and limit the impact should an incident occur.
The aim of the safety case regime is to ensure that those responsible for buildings, known as Accountable Persons, deliver a continuous preventative and proactive approach to managing building safety risks. Accountable Persons will be the individuals or entities responsible for meeting the statutory obligations related to the management of building safety risks in occupied high-rise residential buildings.
Accountable Persons will need to demonstrate building safety risks are being managed proportionately for each building, rather than assuming that following guidance or prescribed standards will result in safe outcomes. This should enable a more effective approach to managing building safety risks both in terms of outcomes and costs.
How are we going to do it?
All in scope high-rise residential buildings that are at least 18 metres in height or at least 7 storeys, will have to develop and maintain a safety case and submit a Safety Case Report to the Building Safety Regulator. The Principal Accountable Person will be responsible for ensuring the Safety Case Report is complete and updated when necessary and submitted to the Building Safety Regulator for assessment.
The new regime is not about bringing existing buildings in line with the current standards, which in many cases would be ineffective, impractical and financially unviable. Rather, it will ensure proportionate measures are in place for each building to mitigate and manage risks, delivering safer outcomes for residents.
To build a Safety Case, Accountable Persons will be required to identify and assess building safety risks and take reasonable steps to ensure those risks are reduced and controlled to a proportionate level on an ongoing basis. This information will need to be documented and kept up to date, and submitted to the Building Safety Regulator through Safety Case Reports.
The Safety Case Report provides a summary of the steps Accountable Persons have taken to identify, assess, remove, reduce, and manage building safety risks – demonstrating that reasonable and proportionate steps have been taken. It is supported by the wider safety case and the Golden Thread of information which provides the full body of information and evidence around the assessment and management of building safety risks stored digitally.
We will use regulations, which will be subject to consultation, to set out the form and content required for safety case reports and how they are to be submitted to the Building Safety Regulator for assessment.
When taking steps to manage building safety risks within their buildings, Accountable Persons should focus on delivering safe outcomes for residents and must follow prescribed principles. These principles build on existing best practice in relation to risk assessment and management and will provide a framework which supports Accountable Persons in their decision making.
The Secretary of State will use secondary legislation to set out these prescribed principles in regulations, which will be subject to consultation. Following the principles will help ensure reasonable and proportionate measures are in place within a building delivering suitable layers of protection to prevent, control and mitigate building safety risks.
The duty to act in accordance with the prescribed principles addresses concerns that building safety can sometimes overly rely on one layer of mitigation or protection to the exclusion of others. It is not sufficient to apply, or rely on, single layers of protection. Accountable Persons should seek to establish a holistic system, with a proportionate series of efficient barriers in place to manage building safety risks.
The Bill introduces a requirement on the Accountable Person to ensure management structures and processes are in place across the organisation to deliver this systemic approach to risk assessment and management. This is often referred to as a Safety Management System.
The government has worked closely with the sector, including the Early Adopters group and the Joint Regulators Group to develop and test the requirements of a safety case approach. We continue to utilise these relationships to understand the type and detail of guidance that will be required to support the successful implementation of the new regime, furthering understanding of the requirements, driving culture change, and supporting the sector transition into the new regime.
To support the sector transition into the new regime, HSE has published a document outlining the early key messages around safety case principles. We encourage the sector to fully engage with the process.
Dame Judith Hackitt’s report established that the existing regulatory framework and oversight regime for higher risk residential blocks of flats was inadequate and needed to be improved.
Dame Judith identified the introduction of a safety case approach as fundamental to driving culture change and improving the understanding and management of risks to deliver safer buildings for residents. The Report recommended building on the risk management principles set out in the Fire Safety Order which require Responsible Persons to follow principles of prevention set out in the Order.
Prevention principles are commonplace in health and safety law and elsewhere. They provide a framework, often referred to as a hierarchy of controls, to identify and implement practical and procedural measures to reduce risks and deliver safe outcomes.
Safety case regimes have been successful in improving safety standards and reducing incidents across a number of higher hazard sectors, including nuclear energy, railways, airlines and chemical manufacturing. Stakeholder feedback to the government’s consultation confirmed broad support for the introduction of the safety case approach for demonstrating the delivery of safely managed buildings by duty holders.
When do you have to produce a safety case?
The safety case requirements are set out in the Building Safety Bill. While it is not possible to set a firm timetable ahead of scrutiny by Parliament, the Government has published an outline transition plan to support industry preparations. The duties are likely to come into force in the months following Royal Assent.
Transitional arrangements for when a safety case report for an existing occupied higher-risk building must be submitted to the Building Safety Regulator for a first assessment will be set out in regulations. We estimate that it will take the Building Safety Regulator five years to review and inspect the safety cases for all existing buildings for the first time.
How often will the safety case report be reviewed?
Accountable Persons should be regularly and systematically reviewing building safety risks, the measures in place to manage them, taking further measures where appropriate to ensure that they are meeting their legal responsibility. The safety case report must remain valid and ready for review when required.
How will you ensure safety is secured without imposing disproportionate costs?
The new regulatory regime for higher-rise residential buildings is about ensuring that Accountable Persons take the steps necessary to save lives. We are focussed on dealing with the most serious safety risks arising from fire spreading and structural collapse and requiring Accountable Persons to do what is reasonable to deal with these risks to ensure residents are and feel safe.
The safety case regime is not about bringing existing buildings in line with the current standards, which in many cases would be impractical and financially unviable. Rather, it will ensure appropriate measures are in place which will deliver safe outcomes for residents.
The Bill makes clear that the new Building Safety Regulator will enforce these requirements using a targeted and proportionate approach, focusing action on cases where it is really needed.
The Government is also providing direct funding for the remediation of unsafe cladding from residential buildings over 18 metres in height, protecting leaseholders from these costs.
What support will be given to the sector to comply with these duties and requirements?
Clear guidance will be produced and made available to comply with any new duties and requirements. Such guidance is likely to include information on appropriate measures to be taken in a higher risk building to manage building safety risks and prevent major incidents.
A further factsheet published alongside the Bill provides information on Safety Management Systems for managing building safety risks in occupied high-rise residential buildings, an important tool for ensuring the duties are met and safer buildings are delivered.
HSE has published a document outlining the early key messages around safety case principles in order to help the sector prepare for the proposed changes. We encourage the sector to fully engage with the process.
We will use regulations to set out the form and content required for safety case reports.
Does the Safety Case Report include wider risks?
In line with the recommendations of Dame Judith’s Independent Report, for now, the Safety Case Report needs to demonstrate how fire and structural safety risks that could lead to a major incident are being managed. The scope of the regime will be kept under constant review by the new Building Safety Regulator.
Existing requirements, for example those under the Fire Safety Order and Housing Act 2004, will continue to apply.
When will regulations setting out prescribed principles be published?
Draft regulations will be published during the passage of the Bill.
To support the sector transition into the new regime, further support and information will be made available and published in due course.