The gutted Grenfell tower

New ‘safety case’ regime proposed for high-rise buildings

Following the introduction of the Building Safety Bill in Parliament, the HSE has published some early key messages on the proposed new safety case regime for high-rise residential buildings.

The Building Safety Bill proposes changes to building safety law that will place new duties on those who are responsible for the safety of high-rise residential buildings in England - buildings that are seven storeys or more, or 18 metres and above in height.

Says Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings at the HSE:

“Fires and serious structural incidents in these buildings are rare, but when they do happen the consequences can be catastrophic for many people, their homes and communities.”

The Bill proposes a proportionate, risk-based and systematic approach to prevent and reduce the severity of serious incidents and ensure safer buildings.

A key element of the proposed changes is that high-rise residential buildings will need a ‘safety case’ when they are occupied. It will complement existing building and fire safety legislation, and require those responsible to think critically about the potential fire and structural hazards in their buildings, and show how they are keeping their buildings safe.

Safety cases will be a new concept to many of those involved. Says Baker:

“We’ve been working with a group of early industry adopters and other housing providers to provide some insights to help those who may have new roles to prepare for the changes and better understand what a safety case is."

The safety case is all the information used to manage the risk of fire spread and the structural safety of a building. In the proposed new safety case regime, some of the information will be used as evidence to demonstrate (or justify) how major accidents in a building are being prevented and their consequences limited. 

The proposed safety case requirement will not replace existing legal requirements that apply to buildings and those requirements must still be complied with.

Safety case principles for high-rise residential buildings (PDF) provides early support on taking sensible, risk-based steps to keep people safe in and around buildings. It will also help residents, developers, and others with how safety cases can ensure building safety. More material will follow to reflect the new legislation as it emerges.