The Building Safety Act and What it Means for you

Whilst the Building Safety Act is clearly only applicable in the UK, sadly the recent tragedy in Spain highlights that many regions could benefit from improved health and safety systems.

It seems that every industry webinar and blog published at the moment is about the new Building Safety Act, in this article we will focus on the practical steps your organisation can take to be compliant.

Firstly, what is the Building Safety Act? The Building Safety Act aims to improve the safety of high-rise building in England and Wales by establishing new regulations for the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings of higher risk buildings. Higher risk buildings are defined as at least 18 metres tall or have at least seven floors with 2 or more residential homes.

As most will be well aware the catalyst for this Act was the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and the subsequent Hacket report. In the report Dame Hackitt suggests that; ‘…there is a need for a radical rethink of the whole system and how it works. This is most definitely not just a question of the specification of cladding systems, but of an industry that has not reflected and learned for itself, nor looked to other sectors.’ I think we can agree this is a fairly damning statement, and hopefully a wake-up call for us all. The tangible action that was triggered by this report was the Draft Building Safety Bill published in July 2020, gaining Royal Assent in April 2022.

From April 2023 in scope buildings needed to be registered, the deadline for this was October 2023.

 Within the Building Safety Act a new role in regard to the building is identified, the ‘Accountable Persons’. The definition of this role is ‘An organisation or individual who owns or has a legal obligation to repair any common parts of the building.’ The duties of the accountable person are to assess and manage building safety risks, prevent spread of fire and structural failure, and reduce the seriousness of an incident if one happens. There may be multiple accountable persons, however there is always a Principal Accountable Person, this is whoever owns, or has a legal obligation, to repair the structure and exterior of the building. Accountable persons have the following responsibilities:

  • To register buildings, they are the accountable person for
  • Assess and manage building safety risks
  • Create safety cases and safety case reports
  • Delivery mandatory reporting
  • Maintain the golden thread of information
  • Create and own residents’ engagement strategy
  • Create and manage a complaints system 

In this new process there are 3 gateways where this information is reviewed and approved. Gateway 1 is the planning & design phase where the building’s design is approved. Gateway 2 is the construction phase, when the building’s construction is reviewed and approved by the Building Safety Regulator before works can begin. The third and final gateway is the completion phase, which is when the building owners submit the safety case to the Building Safety regulator.

Throughout this process is the golden thread of information, and it is a requirement that to a clear record of information is maintained about a building’s design, construction, and maintenance throughout its lifecycle.

Under the new Act the period under which claims can be made and therefore the amount of time it would be prudent to retain information is 30 years retrospectively for claims accruing before 28 June 2022 and to 15 years for claims accruing after 28 June 2022. So, a long-term data retention policy and strategy is crucial.

This certainly seems like a lot of work; however, we should remember why we are doing this and bear in mind that the penalties for failure to comply are 2 years imprisonment and/or unlimited fines.

As I promised at the start of this article here are the action you can take now to get compliant:

  • If you haven’t already, to register any building that you are required to.
  • Ensure you and your organisation fully understand their responsibilities and the main parties involved on all projects that fall under the Act. Organise briefing sessions and reference material.
  • Confirm you have a full understanding of the risk assessment specific to the requirements of the Act, focused on structural stability and spread of fire.
  • Evaluate your team, check you have the required competencies, create an upskilling plan if not.
  • Review your data storage processes, do you keep everything required, is it accessible and clear? What is your long-term data retention plan?
  • Deploy a digital system for reporting safety issues/occurrences.

 In summary, there is a lot to action, but putting a strategy in place for understanding, planning, and actioning the above points breaks this down into easily manageable sections.

 If you would like to discuss any of this further do not hesitate to contact the team at Diatec.