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No more hand waving on fire and electrical safety in shared accommodation

No more hand waving on fire and electrical safety in shared accommodation

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The ECA and the Fire and Security Association (FSA) have just contributed to the Independent Review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety. This review follows the Grenfell Tower fire, but it will look at the overall effectiveness of the Building Regulations in particular, including Part B (fire) and Part P (electrical safety) . In our joint response, we have proposed regulatory and other measures that would greatly reduce fire and electrical safety risks in ‘multiple occupancy accommodation’ which include, but are not restricted to, tall buildings.

In doing so, we have challenged what we regard as a ‘deregulatory’ mindset that we believe has greatly affected the development of building safety regulation for many years. We have pointed out that any policy or regulatory approach that might increase danger to the public - and notably the most vulnerable people in our society - is a derogation of the most basic responsibility placed upon any nation, which is to protect its population. 

We also contend that an important part of the regulatory problem is apparent confusion in parts of government and its various departments between the need for:

1) ‘better regulation’ - where the aim is solely to reduce operational burdens and inefficiencies in businesses or the public sector; and

2) clear, effective regulation in order to maintain standards that protect the general public from harm, and notably from serious danger.

With this in mind, for multiple occupancy accommodation, we have recommended higher electrical and fire safety standards which would be far more fit for purpose than the current situation (the primary purpose being to protect the public, including vulnerable people, from danger).

As such, we proposed three regulatory measures under this review:

1. Competent companies: All electrical and fire safety systems companies working in these buildings should undergo third-party certification at least every three years (or more frequently if necessary), by suitably accredited certification bodies.

2. Qualified individuals: All individuals doing the electrical and fire safety work in these premises should be suitably qualified, meeting recognised industry standards of capability and professionalism.  For electrical work, the status of ‘ECS Registered Electrician’ is a suitable and effective demonstration of these requirements. Meeting these requirements for fire, emergency and security systems can also be demonstrated by the relevant ECS card scheme.

3. Sufficient maintenance and inspection:  Inspections of accommodation, particularly those of multiple occupancy, should be held at least every five years (and sooner, if there is a change of tenancy or a significant alteration that may affect safety). This should be in addition to the current annual fire inspections, required under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) 2005.

We trust that the review will consider these important recommendations as a key component of delivering world leading standards that will ensure the safety of those who live in multiple occupancy accommodation.