BAFE responds to Scottish government guidance
THE ORGANISATION stated that it welcomed the publication of the practical guidance, stating that it was a ‘comprehensive document of high quality’ but adding that it had suggestions for improvements.
In July this year, the Scottish government ‘strengthened’ fire safety and building standards, including ‘more stringent’ provisions for external cladding systems, additional escape stairs and evacuation alert systems. It said fire safety ‘is to be strengthened’ in new high rise buildings, with changes to building standards including ‘more stringent’ provisions for external wall cladding systems.
The changes, which will come into force on 1 October, also include additional escape stairs and the introduction of evacuation alert systems, alongside storey identification signs to help fire and rescue services ‘in the unlikely event of a partial or full-scale evacuation’. The new guidance also lowers the minimum building height at which non combustible external cladding should be provided, from 18m to 11m.
However, it was noted that the government had agreed to ‘defer the introduction’ of automatic fire suppression systems until 2021 in all new build flats, houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) with ‘care 24/7’ and larger HMOs with over 10 residents ‘to align with our commitment to introduce’ such systems in new build social housing.
In 2017 the government released new fire safety guidance in the wake of Grenfell, launching a consultation and announcing chairs for the two review groups. Last year it amended smoke and fire alarm regulations, proposed retrofitting of sprinklers and later made it mandatory for them to be installed in all new social housing. The new measures announced to be coming in from October were foreshadowed late in 2018, while a government consultation on high rise fire safety was also launched earlier this year.
It has now launched practical guidance relating to existing specialised housing and other supported domestic accommodation, and BAFE said that it ‘welcomes’ the publication, noting that it ‘believes that it is a comprehensive document of high quality’ that is ‘clearly thorough’ and set to be the ‘crucial reference document for those in charge’ of the relevant buildings.
BAFE added that the document’s glossary was ‘especially helpful to those unfamiliar with fire safety terms’, though it noted that it should ‘contain a reference’ to third party certification mentioned in various areas. It also suggested that the guidance should ‘perhaps include’ a ‘more comprehensive’ listing of subsections ‘for easier reference’, while the use of colour backgrounds per topic ‘might also be helpful’.
The organisation also recommended that the online version ‘might have searchable links’, and said that a ‘valid question’ might be ‘who is going to read this document and in what circumstances’, as well as whether specific advice on particular topics is ‘readily accessible’. Producing a digest or shorter version such as an advisory leaflet ‘would seem appropriate’, while it welcomed the concerp of a person centred fire safety risk assessment’, a ‘wholly new concept and one for which there is currently no standard’.