Shortly after Grenfell, the Government’s Building Safety Programme was tasked with identifying remedial measures to protect the safety of high-rise residents. The Government’s Independent Expert Advisory Panel then published a Consolidated Advice Note which has resulted in a highly risk-adverse approach to building safety with many building owners adopting policies and procedures that went well beyond Government guidance, including their management of buildings that were already adequately safe.
As a result, the BSI has developed PAS 9980:2022 in conjunction with various experts in fire, Health & Safety, engineering and housing. This new PAS (Publicly Available Specification) supersedes the Consolidated Advice Note, which has now been withdrawn, and provides guidance on assessing the risk of fire spread in high-rise buildings. Crucially, it also acknowledges that not all buildings will require an appraisal. This is, in part, an effort to reassure residents who may believe that their homes are less safe than they really are.
The new Fire Safety Bill includes a requirement for a building’s owner to ensure that a building’s external wall system is checked during a Fire Risk Assessment. PAS9980 helps building owners to meet this requirement by guiding the Fire Risk Assessment of a building through a consistent, five step approach to determine if remedial work is necessary in the individual context of each property:
- A building can be deemed Low Risk if it is determined that external spread is likely to be within normal expectations and, if so, no remediation is necessary.
- If external spread is likely to be more rapid than normally expected but if the heightened risk from fire spread is “tolerable”, then Medium Risk might be awarded.
- If external spread is likely to be more rapid than normally expected and clearly unacceptable, then High Risk must be awarded with a requirement for action necessary.
The PAS also identifies proportional steps building owners should take to improve a building’s risk rating and ensure that residents are kept safe without shouldering the financial cost of unnecessary works.
PAS 9980 is intended for use by Fire Engineers, and other competent professionals conducting Fire Risk Appraisals of External Walls. Its approach to risk assessments is aimed at making it easier to train professionals to gain competency in conducting them and thus easier to attract more professionals into the field.
The PAS itself is not intended for use by laypersons but provides recommendations for the competence of professionals completing appraisals. As such, it can be referenced to verify that professionals appointed to conduct appraisals are appropriately trained, skilled, and qualified.
PAS 9980 has been published as a free download which is available directly from the BSI’s website.