Building Safety Regulator (England)

Clause 2 of the Building Safety Bill (not yet enacted), appoints the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the Building Safety Regulator in England.

The Building Safety Regulator will be an independent regulator with its own powers, strategic plan, and programme of work. It will give expert advice to local regulators, landlords and building owners, the construction and building design industry, and to residents.

The Bill proposes that the Building Safety Regulator will have two objectives:

(1) securing the safety of people in and around buildings in relation to risks from buildings

(2) improving building standards.

The Building Safety Regulator will:

* implement a new, more stringent regulatory regime for high-rise buildings in England (high-rise buildings are residential buildings of 7 storeys or more or 18 metres or more in height and in the design and construction phase only, including care homes and hospitals that meet the same height threshold)

* be the building control authority in England for building work on high-rise buildings

* oversee and enforce a new regime for occupation of high-rise buildings

* oversee the safety and performance of all buildings. This has two aspects:

(1) overseeing the performance of other building control bodies (local authorities and registered building control approvers (currently known as approved inspectors))

(2) understanding and advising on existing and emerging building standards and safety risks

* promote competence among industry professionals and regulators to raise standards in the design, construction, and management of buildings.

The HSE published on 14 October 2021 a fact sheet on its proposed enforcement approach – here.

This fact sheet states the HSE intends that –

* the Building Safety Regulator will deliver evidence-based, proportionate, and targeted engagement and interventions with dutyholders,

* the Building Safety Regulator’s programme of work will include communication activities to advise and support dutyholders and residents,

* enforcement activities and sanctions will be targeted to improve the safety and performance of buildings.

The Building Safety Bill provides for greater regulatory scrutiny and the HSE expects a series of hard stops at key stages during design and construction to be introduced by separate regulation (enacted under the Bill when it is an Act and commenced).

During occupation of the buildings in scope, the Bill requires dutyholders to demonstrate ongoing management of building safety risk through a safety case report. The HSE fact sheet states this will give the Building Safety Regulator a wide range of tools to achieve improved building safety performance and to deliver the culture change identified in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review Building a Safer Future.

The Building Safety Regulator will be responsible for the regulatory decisions during the design, construction, occupation and refurbishment of high-rise buildings.

Per the HSE fact sheet – the Building Safety Regulator’s activities to achieve building safety and performance outcomes will include:

* granting permission to proceed with construction work and issuing completion certificates at appropriate points in the construction and occupation phases

* a process of providing certification following assessment of the in-occupation safety case

as well as formal enforcement and sanctions.

There will be a published Enforcement Policy Statement (EPS). But it may be the HSE arrives at a position that it’s existing HSE EPS is sufficiently flexible to accommodate its new responsibilities as the Building Safety Regulator or it requires some amendment but is still the right vehicle.

Re the building safety report – the bill requires a building specific safety case report to be produced (high rise buildings in the design and construction phase). This safety case report will identify the fire and structural hazards associated with the building. It will set out how the risks they present are being managed to prevent the risks materialising and reduce the severity of any incident resulting if the risks do materialise. The adequacy of the safety case will be assessed by the Building Safety Regulator, working with multi-disciplinary teams, as part of the building assessment certification process.

Re oversight of existing building control inspection – the Building Safety Regulator will monitor the performance of local authority building control bodies and private sector building control approvers. The fact sheet states the HSE will also oversee and regulate all individuals working as building inspectors. Building inspectors and building control approvers will be subject to a registration requirement and the Building Safety Regulator may suspend or remove inspectors from the register and address performance and professional misconduct. The fact sheet states there will be improved competence and accountability through the creation of a unified professional and regulatory structure.

Building Safety (England)

On 2nd April, the government gave an update on its progress to overhaul England’s building and fire safety regimes, following the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in London.

The government’s update on building safety is here. Some key points –

(1) the new Building Safety Regulator (that is being established in shadow form by the Health and Safety Executive – I Blog posted about this at the time of announcement in January 2020) will be responsible for implementing and enforcing a more stringent regulatory regime for higher risk buildings, as well as providing wider and stronger oversight of safety and performance across all buildings, and increasing the competence of those working on building safety

(2) the new regulator will be responsible for all major regulatory decisions made at key points during the design, construction, occupation and refurbishment stages of buildings in scope

(3) the government will establish a national construction products regulatory role to strengthen the oversight of the existing regulatory regime governing construction products

(note – construction products in the UK are presently regulated by retained EU Law – see the Brexit Consolidated Law List in Subscribers’ tailored Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Law Checklists systems)

(4) the government has confirmed ACM PE (a cladding material used at Grenfell Tower) presents an unparalleled risk and should be remediated on all buildings – the update also state consolidated advice is clear that other cladding materials should also be assessed for safety and remediated where found to be unsafe –

External wall systems on high-rise buildings using Class C or D HPL panels are unsafe and should be removed as they do not comply with building regulations.

(5) in May 2020, the government will publish an update to Approved Document B that will include increased fire safety measures in high-rise residential buildings, including the provision of sprinkler systems and consistent signage in all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11 metres tall

(Subscribers to Cardinal Environment tailored EHS Legislation Registers & Law Checklists who have Approved Document B loaded, will have this updated)

(6) the government will work with the National Fire Chiefs Council on a series of tests of new evacuation alert systems technology, with a view to including guidance in a later update to Approved Document B

(7) the government has announced measures to support construction professionals who have experienced challenges in accessing adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance and support for fire engineers who are advising on the safety of high-rise and other complex buildings

Announcements already made include –

(a) naming building owners who have been slow to act in removing unsafe ACM cladding

(b) introducing the Fire Safety Bill as part of delivery of the recommendations of the Grenfell Inquiry’s Phase One report – the Bill is not yet progressed

(c) legislating for the new reforms through the Building Safety Bill – this Bill is also not progressed

A blog post made at the time covers their First Reading at UK Parliament.