How can you manage fire risk with inadequate building information?

Under Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations, the person carrying out the work is required to pass on fire safety information of a building to the responsible person, as defined by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The information required relates to the design and construction of the building or extension, and the services, fittings and equipment provided, which will assist the responsible person to operate and maintain the building or extension with reasonable safety.

I wish it were not the case, but our experience underlines this concern, as rarely do we see sufficient depth of information regarding a facility that will assist the production of a comprehensive fire strategy.


We are sure that all parties involved in the delivery of a project start out with the best of intentions, but the instances of unfulfilled delivery of required reference documentation seem to occur with alarming regularity.

The failure to deliver appropriate reference information not only breaches the Building Regulations and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, but also the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Despite this legal requirement, clients often seem reconciled to the idea that incomplete information is `the norm` within the construction industry, despite the fact that it may compromise the compliance, fire integrity and operation of the facility for years to come.

In addition, the Building Regulations (Part L2) 2006 require a Building Log Book to be produced as part of the reference documentation. Log books are a legal requirement for new and refurbished buildings and for existing buildings where significant changes have been made, but once again we have seen little evidence to suggest that this legal requirement is being complied with.

If you do not know what you have in a facility, how can you manage it correctly?

What clients can do

Clients can play their part and should develop and clearly set out their expectations at the outset of a project for a formal, documented handover by the project team, to the client and building operational team, on completion of project work.

Payment to contractors should be conditional on a satisfactory handover being achieved, including the delivery of all required reference documentation; the financial penalty for non-delivery should be sufficiently onerous.

The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (RRFSO) requires the controller of premises in England and Wales to ensure fire safety measures are implemented, therefore a framework for managing fire safety is required to ensure that appropriate measures are in place, they are applied and they are effective. Management framework HSG65: Successful Health and Safety Management Systems (HSE, 2003) provides a suitable process.

Fire safety law sets minimum standards for organisations to meet in order to control fire risk. These standards demand the active management of risks, not just compliance with prescribed standards.

Responsible Person

With regard to overall Fire Management within a facility, the responsibilities of the `Responsible Person` are far greater than just the production of a Fire Risk Assessment. The more complex a facility, the greater the need for accurate and detailed reference documentation in relation to the building construction, fire protection measures, fire detection and fire fighting systems.

A phrase often used within the RRFSO is `so far as is reasonably practicable` to qualify most fire management duties and the `Responsible Person` must continually ask themselves whether all that could be done, has been done. The `Responsible Person` may find themselves in a precarious position if it is known that reference information is insufficient and therefore associated fire management arrangements come up short.

Ignorance based on claimed inadequate information may not be an acceptable defence in the eyes of the law and failure to take management responsibility may result in the prosecution of a building owner or occupier under applicable legislation.

In complex buildings it is difficult to see how an appropriate fire management strategy and detailed fire risk assessment can be produced without reference to comprehensive fire plans and design information.

We would advise …

It is incumbent upon the `Responsible Person` to ensure that fire integrity of the building is maintained, including passive protection measures and installed fire detection and fire fighting systems, to the required design criteria throughout the life of the building. Robust Fire Management procedures must be developed and implemented to support this effort and ensure that required standards are not compromised.

A good understanding of the building design and construction is required regarding applied fire prevention measures, fire resistant materials and fire containment. Structural elements of a building should be resistant to fire, the transfer of heat and premature collapse. Surface lining materials should be resistant to fire and the spread of fire. It is crucial that the integrity of these elements including fire compartmentation and fire barriers (and their relationship to means of escape) is not compromised through the life of the building.

Similarly comprehensive design information, layout drawings and operation and maintenance information is required in relation to the fire detection, fire alarm and fire fighting equipment installed (fixed and portable). Such information will be required to implement appropriate, periodic, system test and maintenance regimes in order to comply with the applicable British Standard and statutory test and certification requirement.