Fire Safety in Purpose-Built Blocks of Flats
Since the devastation of Grenfell Tower, fire safety in blocks of flats has been under scrutiny and is being taken very seriously. The buildings of flats are home to many residents and house many people, which also means more risks and hazards in individual flats that can cause a fire for the whole building. For the landlord or owner of the building, there is a legal obligation to ensure fire risk assessments are carried out for the communal areas within a block of flats.
This blog will guide both landlords and tenants on the common fire safety issues you need to be aware of in blocks of flats, and the correct risk assessments that need to be carried out and by who.
What types of premises are classed as a ‘purpose-built’ block of flats?
A flat is described as a ‘self-contained domestic dwelling in a building’ and includes maisonettes and flats of multistories. A purpose-built block of flats is considered to be the communal areas and common parts of any existing buildings that have been constructed as purpose-built flats, flats with multiple occupations, ie. student accommodation, and blocks of flats situated about commercial premises.
How can I find out what to do?
The Guide Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats can be referred to for guidance around what you need to do and the procedures you need to follow/put in place. However some areas of this guide are no longer applicable, so we recommend you follow the guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings. If you would like to speak directly to us for guidance, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Who is responsible and who can carry out a risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment must be carried out by a responsible person, who should also be someone who owns the business and has the necessary knowledge to carry out the assessment. You can decide to do this, or you can employ a qualified person. If you choose to undertake the assessment yourself, be sure to follow the guidance in the government guide under ‘How can I find out what to do?’.
The responsibility for arranging a fire risk assessment and ensuring that the correct checks are carried out lies with the building owner or landlord.
Common problems found in purpose-built flats
Block of flats must have a high level of fire separation in between flats and any communal areas. This compartmentation includes all walls, floors and ceilings, and any doors and hatches. They all must be of a sufficient standard to limit the spread of fire. Any damages, gaps, or holes caused by pipes or wires must be filled and any areas, such as bin chutes, must not allow smoke to pass through which could affect access to escape routes.
Fire Risk Assessment
You must record any findings of your risk assessment and share them with any residents and staff on site. Your residents must be aware of what to do in the event of a fire and the measure in place in the building.
Combustibles in escape routes
Be sure that all escape routes, including stairs, are free of obstruction and that fire doors are kept shut at all times. Do not place rubbish, prams, or scooters in escape routes as they could act as a source of fuel and a trip hazard, both of which affect the safety of residents and firefighters in the event of a fire.
Maintaining ventilation systems
Ventilation systems, including natural and fire-engineered ventilation systems, may be used to ensure escape routes are smoke-free when a fire occurs. The system in place will be specifically designed for the building and this system must be maintained by a competent person. Any faults should be reported and rectified immediately as they should be in full working order all the time.
If you require any further information or want to enquire about our one-stop shop to book a risk assessment, then contact us today on 0800 799 9514, or click here to fill out our online enquiry form.