02 July 2018
If plans have been approved under national building regulations, the building, once completed, is bound to satisfy the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (or equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland)?
The scope of physical fire precautions required under national building regulations throughout the UK is similar to that of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (or equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland), but it is not identical. For example, national building regulations do not require the provision of portable fire extinguishers, but these are normally required under legislation after the building is completed. Also, the ongoing legislation makes numerous requirements in relation to management, which is outside the scope of national building regulations.
In England and Wales, there is a statutory requirement for the building control body to consult the fire and rescue service before approving plans for a building to which the Fire Safety Order will apply. This requirement only applies to certain classes of building in Scotland and is not replicated in Northern Ireland, where voluntary consultation normally occurs to a variable extent.
In any case, the building control officer is not obliged to accept the comments of the fire and rescue service. Moreover, there is not complete certainty that the building will be constructed in accordance with the approved design. Even a completion certificate is not conclusive evidence in this respect.
Accordingly, it is not unknown for the first (and sometimes later) fire risk assessments (or audits by the fire and rescue service) to identify breaches in fire safety legislation in a relatively new building for which plans were approved under national building regulations.