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December 16, 2020

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Fire risk assesments

Revised fire risk assessment standard published

UK national standards body BSI has published a revised version of a fire risk assessment standard that aims to reduce fire risk and improve the safety of non-domestic buildings and housing premises.

The revisions have been made to PAS 79, Fire Risk Assessment. Guidance and a Recommended Methodology.

The standard has been published in two parts:

PAS 79-1, Fire Risk Assessment – Part 1: Premises Other Than Housing – Code of Practice

FireRiskAssessmentUpdates-20PAS 79-1 gives recommendations and corresponding examples of documentation for undertaking and recording the significant findings of fire risk assessments in non‑domestic premises and parts of non-domestic premises for which fire risk assessments are required by legislation.

It is applicable to peer-to-peer rented accommodation and to premises used solely for short-term letting of flats (with letting periods ranging from one day to six months).

PAS 79-1 is for fire safety professionals with knowledge of the principles of fire safety, who are either responsible for one particular organisation’s fire safety assessment or work for consultancies providing fire risk assessments as a service.

What’s new about PAS 79-1:2020?

The full revision introduces the following principal changes:

  • PAS 79-1 is a code of practice, whereas PAS 79:2012 was a guide. PAS 79:2012 was already written in the form of a code of practice – the change in status is simply to recognise this, noting that guides are not usually of such a nature as to sustain a reliable claim of compliance.
  • The scope now excludes blocks of flats, sheltered housing, extra care housing, supported housing and certain houses in multiple occupation (i.e. those falling within the scope of the relevant fire safety legislation), all of which are now covered in PAS 79-2:2020.
  • The technical content has been subject to amendment in the light of experience in the use of PAS 79.
  • There is new guidance on the consideration to be given to external wall construction and cladding.
  • There is recognition of pre-occupation fire safety assessments, a term now defined in this PAS, and a clarification to avoid confusion between these assessments and the fire risk assessment to which this PAS refers.
  • There is even greater emphasis on competence of fire risk assessors and reference to future competence standards. It’s also noted that fire safety specialists with experience only in the design of new buildings might not possess an appreciation of standards against which older buildings were designed and the possible continued acceptability of such standards.
  • Changes to, and publication of, various new British Standards have been taken into account.

PAS 79-2, Fire Risk Assessment – Part 2: Housing – Code of Practice

PAS 79-2 gives recommendations and corresponding examples of documentation for undertaking and recording the significant findings of fire risk assessments in housing premises and parts of housing premises for which fire risk assessments are required by legislation.

Recommendations are also provided for fire risk assessments that are outside the scope of fire safety legislation but are designed to protect residents of blocks of flats, sheltered housing and extra care housing in the event of a fire in their own flat.

PAS 79-2 is also for fire safety professionals with knowledge of the principles of fire safety, who are either responsible for one particular organisation’s fire safety assessment or work for consultancies providing fire risk assessments as a service.

What’s new about PAS 79-2:2020?

This new Part 2 of PAS 79 is based on PAS 79:2012, but introduces the following principal changes:

  • PAS 79-2 is a code of practice, whereas PAS 79:2012 was a guide. PAS 79:2012 was already written in the form of a code of practice, and the change in status is simply to recognise this, noting that guides are not usually of such a nature as to sustain a reliable claim of compliance.
  • The scope of this new Part 2 of PAS 79 comprises blocks of flats, sheltered housing, extra care housing, supported housing and certain houses in multiple occupation (i.e. those falling within the scope of the relevant fire safety legislation). Fire risk assessment for other, non-housing premises is now addressed in a new Part 1 of PAS 79.
  • Guidance, published in England by the Local Government Association, on fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats has been taken into account, along with equivalent guidance for high-rise blocks of flats published in Scotland by the Scottish Government.
  • Guidance produced by the National Fire Chiefs Council on fire safety in specialised housing has been taken into account, along with equivalent guidance published in Scotland by the Scottish Government.
  • For blocks of flats, sheltered housing and extra care housing, recommendations are provided for Types 2, 3 and 4 fire risk assessments, as defined in the Local Government Association guidance and the National Fire Chiefs Council guidance. However, for these housing premises, this PAS is primarily concerned with the Type 1 fire risk assessment required for compliance with the relevant fire safety legislation in England and Wales.
  • The technical content has been subject to amendment in the light of experience in the use of PAS 79:2012.
  • There is new guidance on the consideration to be given to external wall construction and cladding.
  • There is recognition of pre-occupation fire safety assessments, a term now defined in this PAS, and a clarification to avoid confusion between these assessments and the fire risk assessment to which this PAS refers.
  • There is even greater emphasis on competence of fire risk assessors and reference to future competence standards. It’s also noted that fire safety specialists with experience only in the design of new buildings might not possess an appreciation of standards against which older buildings were designed and the possible continued acceptability of such standards.
  • There is new, more detailed discussion of the ‘stay put’ strategy normally adopted in blocks of flats and maisonettes, and this term, as well as the converse strategy of simultaneous evacuation, is now defined in this PAS.
  • A warning is included in respect of the potential risk to residents if a ‘stay put’ strategy is inappropriately abandoned.
  • Reference is made to evacuation alert systems for use by the fire and rescue service in blocks of flats and maisonettes, which are the subject of BS 8629.
  • Reference is made to person-centred fire risk assessments in specialized housing, though specific recommendations in relation to these fire risk assessments are outside the scope of this PAS.
  • Changes to, and publication of various other new, British Standards have been taken into account.

The standards are available from BSI, here:

This news story is in partnership with Barbour EHS, a specialist information service provider supporting professionals across sectors including fire and security, FM, health and safety, sustainability and energy. Find out more about the company in our exclusive Tech Talks video below.

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