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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
November 2, 2023

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BSR will “show its teeth” for those failing to comply with legislation – Regulator provides update to industry at the Fire Conference 2023

At the Fire Conference 2023 in October, Chris Griffin McTiernan said the Building Safety Regulator will support dutyholders doing the right thing, but will show its teeth to those who fail to comply with legislation.

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Chris Griffin McTiernan, Deputy Chief Inspector at the Building Safety Regulator

The Grenfell Tower fire showed that there were clear failings in leadership across multiple industries, Chris Griffin McTiernan, Deputy Chief Inspector at the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) told delegates at the Fire Conference 2023.

But the culture of blame-passing and systematic incompetence will no longer wash, now that the BSR is in place.

He asked the audience whether they remembered where they were when news broke of the Grenfell Tower fire. He certainly did – he was on government business in Nairobi to prepare for the UK Prime Minister’s visit the following week in a push to sell “Global Britain”.

When the news broke at the British Embassy, he remembered the astonishment of a local Kenyan watching BBC News that something like that could happen in an advanced economy such as the UK. He turned to him and remarked that if that was his idea of Global Britain, he could keep it!

“As someone who was really proud of his country, at that moment I felt utterly ashamed. Not only had we allowed residents to die in their own homes, it was being seen right around the world.”

Fire safety in planning applications improves

Griffin McTiernan said the BSR was already making a difference, but there is much still to do.

When Planning Gateway One was launched, as many as 58% of applications raised fire safety concerns with the regulator. But now that figure was now down to 31%.

“The stats show that the need to consider fire safety in the early stages of a high-rise building is vital and has taken some time to land, but there is still much work to do. Developers need demonstrate what will be in place to satisfy all building regulations requirements.”

The BSR’s second function is to enable the registration of HRBs (high rise buildings). As of 10 October, the BSR has successfully registered 10,695 HRBs, with over 90% of those completing their key building information. The latest figures, shared by the BSR on 1 November, show that figure now stands at 12,318.

His team will now be looking at who hasn’t registered, and taking appropriate action to ensure they comply with the legislation. Multi-disciplinary teams will give expertise and assurance for residents that buildings are safe, he said, and the BSR will benefit from the skills and experience of people outside the regulator.

On 1 October, the BSR became the building control authority for all building work on HRBs. Developers will have to demonstrate – and not just declare – how their designs will satisfy building regulations, before they start to build.

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Chris Griffin McTiernan speaking at the Fire Conference 2023

It requires a developer to demonstrate how the building work will be managed and monitored, and how it realises the design that was approved.

Building control profession regulator

BSR is becoming the regulator of the building control professions for all buildings and from April 2024, registration will be mandatory.

There must be a demonstration of competence and professional conduct on the part of Registered Building Inspectors, and organisational competence on the part of Registered Building Control Approvers.

“I believe this is a strong set of regulations and failure to comply could be used as evidence of professional misconduct.”

Griffin McTiernan offered a carrot-and-stick approach to all those responsible for the development and occupation of buildings. He said the BSR will be proportionate, transparent and consistent in its approach to regulation and enforcement.

“Where duty holders do the right thing, we will support and encourage. But we are a regulator with teeth, make no mistake about that. Fail to comply, and the regulator will bare its teeth.”

As part of the registration process, the BSR will have access to all the collected building information of high-rise buildings in England. The BSR will begin to ask Principle Accountable Persons to apply for a building assessment certificate.

Over a five-year period, the regulator will aim to assess all of those high-rise buildings in England – of which there are around 12,500-13,000.

Cultural change needed

Griffin McTiernan summed up saying: “I’m pleased that today’s conference demonstrates how serious we all are about being part of the behavioural and cultural change that we want to see in this industry, and the support you want to give the BSR. It is imperative that we recognise the role we all have in starting to build and rebuild residents’ trust, and be part of a building safety system that, in future, we can be proud of.

“Be ready and understand how the functions of the BSR will affect you and your work, and step up and explore how you and your organisations can support the work of the BSR. [This will] ensure that in the future, the global Britain that we demonstrate on the world stage is not the image of residents dying in their own homes.”

 

2023 Fire Safety eBook – Grab your free copy!

Download the Fire Safety in 2023 eBook, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry. Chapters include important updates such as the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and an overview of the new British Standard for the digital management of fire safety information.

Plus, we explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.

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