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September 29, 2022

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FIA releases guidance on cladding and external wall systems in fire risk assessments addressing challenges involved

Updated to reflect the publication and commencement of The Fire Safety Act 2021, new guidance from the Fire Industry Association (FIA) addresses the challenges and provides advice to Fire Risk Assessors related to cladding and external wall construction assessments for multi-occupied residential premises. 

EWS1-CladdingForms-FIA-21The Guidance Note has been prepared by a Special Interest Group (SIG), comprising representatives of FIA member companies, other invited experts in the practice of fire risk assessment in housing premises, and an observer from the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Members of the SIG represent companies that carry out, in total, over 40,000 fire risk assessments for multi-occupied residential premises (blocks of flats and maisonettes) per annum.

It has been published with the approval of the FIA Board and was published after circulation of a draft to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, the Home Office and the National Fire Chiefs Council, but opinions and guidance set out herein are those of the FIA and are not purported to represent those of consultee.

This guidance applies only to England and Wales. It relates to fire risk assessments carried out for multi-occupied residential premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005(“the Fire Safety Order”).

Challenges for the industry with new assessments

The FIA looks into the scope of the Fire Safety Order and the problems Fire Risk Assessors may face if external buildings are now expected to be assessed intricately by the assessors.

The SIG argued that the skillset to carry out a fire risk assessment for external buildings is different to when it had previously been undertaken for ‘compliance with the Fire Safety Order’. This, they say, is ‘unrealistic’ for many Fire Risk Assessors to investigate external cladding and wall construction, as they mainly focused on internal risk such as fire doors and entrances previously. In addition, it is noted that it is often very difficult to visually inspect and identify the cladding product and its constituent materials, while original specification drawings are not always accurate to the materials fitted.

The new Guidance Note also scrutinises PAS 9980 and argues that it was not written for ‘typical’ Fire Risk Assessors to implement.

The Guidance Note has called for an acknowledgement that external wall fire risk assessments should be carried out by a specialist, separate from a Fire Risk Assessor for high-rise residential premises:

“The FIA strongly recommend to fire risk assessors that, unless they feel confident to give definitive advice on the nature and fire hazard of external wall construction, and have the appropriate qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience, they exclude assessment of the fire hazard of external wall construction and cladding from the scope of the fire risk assessments that they carry out under the Fire Safety Order, in which case it will be necessary for the action plan of the fire risk assessment to recommend an appraisal of the external wall construction by specialists.”

It is also recommended that fire risk assessors ensure that their advice is within the scope of their professional indemnity insurance cover – it should be highlighted that a scheme directly related to EWS1 assessments has recently been launched by the Government.

Further advice is provided in the guidance note, available on the FIA’s website. 


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