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SPRING NEWSLETTER 2023

THE BUILDING SAFE ACT 2022

The Act underpins the safe design and construction of HRBs through three mandatory gateways processes. Gateway one, at the planning application stage with a requirement to provide early information on fire safety, is already in force. During this year, gateway two, before construction begins, and gateway three, following completion and prior to occupation, will be in place.

Fundamental to compliance with this stricter regime is having information relating to the design, build, and management of the building. This is the “Golden Thread” which is at the core of the Act.

The Building Safety Regulator (BSR) embedded within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will regulate the safety of all buildings in England, but significantly a new building control approval regime for the design, construction and major refurbishment of HRBs. The BSR has significant powers to regulate standards for buildings and construction work, including powers to investigate and prosecute breaches.

Existing HRBs and those that will be completed and occupied are required to have an Accountable Person (AP): these will be those that are responsible for the maintenance and repair of a building’s common parts (typically the building owner, freeholder, or management company). The AP has an ongoing duty to assess building safety risk and provide a “safety case report”. This report demonstrates how risks are being identified, mitigated and managed on an ongoing basis.

All HRBs in occupation must be registered with the BSR between 1 April and 31 October this year. For buildings obtaining practical completion, certification will be required from the BSR before they may legally be occupied. Under the Act and supported by secondary legislation, the following will be happening in 2023:

Gateways two and three to come into operation;

o Mandatory registration of building inspectors and building control approvers.

o Mandatory registration of occupied high-risk residential buildings.

o New duties on the AP with regard to managing safety risks in higher-risk buildings.

o Commencement of mandatory occurrence reporting pertaining to fire and structural safety issues.

o New requirements for construction products.

o Establishment of a Building Advisory Committee, which will provide advice to the BSR ondeveloping future building regulations; and establishment of the Industry Competence Committee to publish public guidance on industry competence and advise the Building Safety Regulator.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

Spring is the season of new beginnings and daylight savings extend our evenings by an hour. While it might not feel like a big shift, in the days just after the time change, workplace injuries and minor accidents at home can increase. We are creatures of habit, we are used to sleeping, eating, exercising, and working at the same time each day. This means that when the time change happens, our rhythms can get out of balance, making us more tired and less attentive at work and at home.

To combat these changes, you might be interested to learn it can take up to a week to adjust to the new time and it’s a good idea to acknowledge this and to take a little extra time when driving or carrying out manual tasks. Remember too, that spring weather is unpredictable, so check the forecasts regularly! Spring can also be a perfect blank slate, a time to refresh interest in your company’s H&S programs and get everyone reengaged through renewed communications, and useful seasonal updates.

FIRE SAFETY

he Fire Safety (England) Regulations came into force on 23 January this year. These introduced new requirements, including monthly lift/firefighting inspections, wayfinding signage for buildings over (18m/seven storeys), quarterly checks of fire doors and annual checks of flat entrance doors (that open onto common parts) for all buildings over 11 metres.

In addition, the government has launched a consultation on the mandating of a second staircase to HRBs over 30 metres. The expectation is that this will be introduced after a short transition period and, while not retrospective, will affect those that have not yet reached detailed planning.

With the recent changes made to “Approved Document B” and the introduction of PAS9980 concerning external wall risk assessments, there is a significant rise in expected standards. Regulators including the Fire Service, Local Authorities and the BSR now have a more effective regulatory framework to enable much closer scrutiny and ultimately enforcement action where breaches have occurred.

CHANGING THE WAY OF WORKING – WHAT NEXT?

2023 marks three years since the start of the first national lockdown prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which, for many organisations, was the first time they shifted to a fully homeworking model. The government guidance requiring this, which at one point required employers to take “every possible step to facilitate” working from home, has long been withdrawn. However, balancing employers’ priorities (including promoting a collaborative work environment, maximising productivity and reducing costs associated with office premises) with workers’ expectations for flexibility continues to present a challenge. Many businesses are still navigating changing ways of working, with a view to reaching a more “permanent” solution that accommodates the expectations of employers and workers. 2022 saw many office-based businesses calling for workers to return to offices for a set number of days per week. This trend towards more clearly defined flexible working arrangements is likely to continue into 2023. Others continued to operate on fully hybrid or remote models, opting to downsize or close offices and in some cases, replacing them with co-working spaces.

As working models change, businesses should keep under review how they are meeting their duties to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, being mindful of the differences in the risks to employees of working from home and remotely and working in an office environment. Where there is a significant change to ways of working, it will be important to revisit systems for managing risks, including in the areas of mental health, lone working and ergonomics, to make sure they remain fit for purpose in supporting the employer to meet their duties under health and safety legislation.

HSE PROSECUTIONS IN 2022

In 2022 a number of large fines were issued by the HSE. The highest of the fines was £3.6 million, as well as numerous other seven-figure fines being handed out. Within the HSE investigations some of the issues found, among others, were: insufficient planning between parties; failure to conduct risk assessments; failure to provide adequate information, instructions and training to staff; and dangerous working practices. These prosecutions give businesses a timely reminder that if they are not complying with their health and safety obligations, then action will be taken against them and substantial fines could be issued.