The Golden Thread: Understanding the Building Safety Act and Why You Need It.

by | Jan 31, 2023 | Blog, Industry News, Intelligent FS News

In the wake of the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people, the UK government commissioned an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. The final report, written by Dame Judith Hackitt, introduced the concept of the “golden thread” as an effective measure to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

So, what is the golden thread? It’s a term used to describe accurate, trusted, complete, and comprehensive records and documentation in digital format for the design, construction, operation, and management of residential buildings. These records serve as a source of evidence during assessments of compliance with building regulations.

The purpose of the golden thread of information is to ensure that everyone involved in building safety management, whether directly or indirectly, has access to key details that could help identify, assess, and mitigate risks. The intended outcome of putting the golden thread into legislation is to significantly reduce the severity of the consequences of fire and structural collapse on the lives and well-being of residents. Furthermore, The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 came into force on 23 January 2023 under article 24 of the Fire Safety Order 2005 and among other things, it is now a requirement of Responsible Persons to install and maintain a secure information box in their building. This box must contain the name and contact details of the responsible person and hard copies of the building floor plans and other relevant information as stated in the Code of Practice for the Provision of Premises Information Boxes in Residential Buildings.

Within the BSA2022 new roles have been created and the building safety reforms give duty holders clear accountability and statutory responsibilities. These apply while buildings are being designed, built, refurbished and occupied, including.

  • Accountable Person (AP): This is identified as a new duty holder for residential high-rise buildings (HRBs). This will be the organisation or person who owns or has responsibility for the building. It may also be an organisation or person who is responsible for maintaining the common parts of a building, for example corridors or lobbies. The AP has a duty to take all reasonable steps to:
    • prevent a building safety risk happening, with building safety risk defined as ‘spread of fire and/or structural failure’
    • reduce the seriousness of an incident if one happens
  • Principal Accountable Person (PAP): In a building where there is more than one AP, the AP responsible for the structure and exterior of the building will be the PAP. If there is only one AP, then this person will also be the PAP. As well as their duties as an AP, PAPs must: 
    • register existing buildings with the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), they can do this between April 2023 and October 2023
    • register all new buildings before occupation
    • prepare a safety case report for the building. This should show that:
      • APs have assessed all building safety risks and
      • taken all reasonable steps to control them
    • give the safety case report to the BSR on request – the BSR will examine it during the building assessment
    • apply for a building assessment certificate when directed by BSR

All occupied buildings must be registered by October 2023, it is an offence if a building is occupied but not registered after this date.

Within The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 it has been made a legal requirement that the Responsible Persons of residential buildings fulfil certain responsibilities.

For all multi-occupied residential buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises and common areas and containing at least two domestic premises of any height

  • to provide residents with fire safety instructions and information on the importance of fire doors
  • to provide relevant fire safety instructions to their residents, which will include instructions on how to report a fire and any other instruction which sets out what a resident must do once a fire has occurred, based on the evacuation strategy for the building
  • to provide residents with information relating to the importance of fire doors in fire safety

For all residential buildings with storeys over 11 metres in height

  • to undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts

For all high-rise residential buildings

  • to provide information to Fire and Rescue Services to assist them to plan and, if needed, provide an effective operational response
  • to provide their local Fire and Rescue Service with up-to-date electronic building floor plans and to place a hard copy of these plans, alongside a single page building plan which identifies key firefighting equipment, in a secure information box on site.
  • to provide to their local Fire and Rescue Service information about the design and materials of a high-rise building’s external wall system and to inform the Fire and Rescue Service of any material changes to these walls. Also, they will be required to provide information in relation to the level of risk that the design and materials of the external wall structure gives rise to and any mitigating steps taken.
  • to undertake monthly checks on the operation of lifts intended for use by firefighters, and evacuation lifts in their building and check the functionality of other key pieces of firefighting equipment. They will also be required to report any defective lifts or equipment to their local Fire and Rescue Service as soon as possible after detection if the fault cannot be fixed within 24 hours, and to record the outcome of checks and make them available to residents.
  • to install and maintain a secure information box in their building. This box must contain the name and contact details of the Responsible Person and hard copies of the building floor plans.
  • to install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions that identifies flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of relevant buildings.

The Responsible Person is the person who is responsible for the safety of themselves and others who use a regulated premises.

This is normally a building owner, or in residential properties, any other person in control of the premises. The responsible person is the person on whom most of the duties set out in the Fire Safety Order are imposed.

The Fire Safety Order applies to all premises including workplaces and the common parts of all multi-occupied residential buildings. It already requires responsible persons where necessary to take certain steps to ensure the safety of residents.

If you’re sat reading this and thinking that this is a lot, then you’re right, it is! But it is absolutely necessary and some may say it doesn’t go far enough. So how can Intelligent FS help?

With a range of practical solutions, we can assist you

  • to ensure you have a fully compliant, digital golden thread of information
  • in checking that your building(s) was constructed in line with the original design and specification
  • to certify your building is safe, in line with PAS9980

However before we can assist, it is vital you have already

  • appointed your Responsible Person, Accountable Person and Principal Accountable Person
  • collated your building’s information (whether digital or paper-based)

But most importantly, don’t delay, take action now to ensure the safety of your building and its inhabitants. Contact Intelligent FS today to learn more about how we can help you comply with the Building Safety Act 2022 and The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.

By Richard Shine, ESG Director, Intelligent FS – 1st February 2023