HSE publishes safety case principles for high-rise residential buildings

Out-Law News | 13 Sep 2021 | 2:17 pm | 1 min. read

The UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has put together a set of principles to support residential property owners and developers in meeting proposed new safety case requirements for high-rise buildings.

The guidance is intended as support to help the industry prepare for legislation to be brought in as part of the Building Safety Bill, which is currently before the UK parliament. The bill introduces the concept of a ‘safety case’, which will be required for occupied high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres in height or with at least seven storeys.

Safety cases will complement existing building and fire safety legislation, 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.

Metcalfe Katherine

Katherine Metcalfe

Legal Director

Building owners must start to prepare now by gathering the relevant information

The HSE’s principles were drawn up with the help of early industry adopters and housing providers to help others prepare for the changes.

Those responsible for high-rise residential buildings should think critically about the hazards and risks associated with the building, the HSE said.

Analysis is required to understand what could go wrong, how it could go wrong, and the potential impact.

Owners and managers should focus on major accident hazards involving the spread of fire or structural failure of the building, which have the potential to adversely impact the health and safety of many people. Although the likelihood of these accidents is rare, the HSE warned they could have a severe impact if they occurred.

The principles also cover the production of a safety case report, emphasising that these should identify major fire and structural hazards, provide a narrative as to why the most important parts of a safety case are necessary, and show a clear understanding of the major hazards associated with the building and measures in place to manage and control the risk of a major accident.

The HSE recommended that owners and operators start preparing for the new regime by thinking about their buildings as a system, gathering relevant information, and considering controls already in place.

The guidance recommends that owners gather the following information about the building: how the building is used and managed; the physical construction of the building; analysis of safety critical elements and component specifications; and insight from residents.

Building safety expert Katherine Metcalfe of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “The HSE guidance sets some clear expectations. Building owners must start to prepare now by gathering the relevant information. It is likely that specialist fire and structural assessments will be required for existing buildings where there are gaps in the information available”

The Building Safety Bill was introduced to Parliament in July 2021, and is expected to take at least nine months to pass the legislative process.