Publication - Minutes

Fire Safety Regime Review Advisory Group minutes: August 2018

Published: 6 Nov 2018
Date of meeting: 28 Aug 2018
Location: St Andrew's House, Edinburgh

Minutes of the meeting of the Fire Safety Regime Review Advisory Group, held on 28 August 2018.

Published:
6 Nov 2018
Fire Safety Regime Review Advisory Group minutes: August 2018

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Dave Signorini, Head of Better Homes Division (Co-Chair)
  • Alex Adrain, Wheatley Group
  • David Stewart, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)
  • Ian Dawson, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO).
  • Paul Bannister, The Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland
  • David McCarrey, Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS)
  • Ashley Campbell, Chartered Institute of Housing (CHI)
  • Kenny McGinty, Maryhill Housing Association
  • Nicola Dickie, COSLA
  • Tom Hardy, Fire and Rescue Unit, Scottish Government
  • Morven Doyle, Fire and Rescue Unit, Scottish Government
  • Chris Booth, Fire and Rescue Unit, Scottish Government
  • David Murdoch, Scottish Government Legal Directorate (SGLD)
  • Stephen Garland, Better Homes Division, Scottish Government
  • Karen Coyne, Better Homes Division, Scottish Government
  • Jessica McPherson, Building and Fire Safety Coordination Team, Scottish Government
  • Colin Hird, Building Standards Division, Scottish Government

Apologies:

  • Wendy Wilkinson, Deputy Director Safer Communities Division (Co-Chair)
  • Michael Doherty, New Gorbals Housing Association
  • Tony Cain, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing (ALACHO)
  • David Reid, Property Managers Association Scotland (PMAS)
  • Andrew Ferguson, Fire & Rescue Unit
  • Stuart Stevens, Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS)
  • David Doran, Property Managers Association Scotland (PMAS)
  • Denise Christie, Fire Brigades Union (FBU)
  • Clyde Ashby, Building Standards Division, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome

The Co-chair welcomed members to the meeting and asked everyone to briefly introduce themselves. 

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes were agreed as an accurate record of the previous meeting of 20 June 2018. All were content that the actions were complete.

Recommendations to the ministerial working group

An overview of the history of Advisory Group meetings and the process so far to get to the proposed recommendations was provided. Tom Hardy and Stephen Garland then provided a presentation of the draft recommendations that have been formulated following discussion at previous advisory group and review group meetings. 

Members were encouraged to ask questions on the recommendations during the presentation and were advised the slides will be circulated after the meeting.  Members were taken through each of the recommendations in more detail. 

Discussion points on recommendations

The group discussed the term ‘dutyholder’; it was noted that we do not have dutyholders in Scotland however we do have the issue of identifying who will be responsible for application of guidance in particular where there are multiple owners. 

The term residents and tenants is intended to cover all occupants of homes.

SFRS quarterly inspections will continue and the proposed fire risk assessments will be another layer of fire safety support offered to building owners.

The question of intrusive inspections has resulted from south of the border when work was carried out post Grenfell; London Fire Brigade undertook intrusive inspections on high rise buildings in direct response to the Grenfell tragedy.  The FBU then gave evidence to the LGCC; intrusive inspections were included as part of this evidence.  

In response to this, the Scottish Government advised that the legislative positions are very different in Scotland compared to England and that Scottish building regulations are much more robust in comparison.  The building standards system in Scotland is very different and we have not experienced the same problems as south of the border. 

It was decided that intrusive inspections would not be embarked upon in Scotland, however should there be a need for this, it will be recommended that guidance is produced that will provide clear advice as to how these should be carried out.  It is not envisaged that SFRS auditors would undertake intrusive inspections; rather SFRS expect fire risk assessors to undertake this task (should it be required).  In terms of construction of complex, high rise buildings and buildings where people sleep, there is a separate consultation underway now that is looking at these issues).  

It was noted that a common position on the uplift of bulky items of furniture is a very good idea as there is currently only 1 Local Authority in Scotland that does not charge for uplifts.  Also if Local Authorities are charging for uplift, this means there is an evidence base that can be looked at.

It is not only bulky furniture that is a fire risk; lots of residents take pride in their landing and they decorate them, inadvertently causing a fire risk.  It was acknowledged that this is a complex problem to solve, but it is one that would be welcomed by all key stakeholders.  A practical solution to this problem would be welcomed right across this sector and this is an important recommendation.  It was agreed that a partnership focussed working group made up of all key stakeholders such as fire service, local government, landlords and property managers would be recommended to take this important piece of work forward.  

There is scope to ask some of broader questions during the subsequent consultation of the various guidance including potential expansion beyond high rise housing.

Group exercise

Group members were split into two and were asked to focus on the following question:

  • Introduction of Scottish guidance: what are the main barriers to coming to a consensus on this work and implementing them sensibly?

Group exercise outcomes

Following the group exercise feedback was shared from both groups as follows:

Group one:

  • only a proportionate and pragmatic approach that will work across the piece will be successful and the guidance must not be burdensome.
  • the message should be focussed on the fact that this guidance will potentially save money in the longer term and will prevent loss of property and in the worst case scenario, life.  This message should be made clear in any guidance.
  • engagement should be made with insurance companies to determine how they are reacting in response to Grenfell; production of this guidance will bring the perceived risk down.
  • in terms of applying the Fire Risk Assessments, it was acknowledged that a best practice guidance approach will very likely be taken up in the social sector and in mixed tenure, however this will be much more problematic in private sector where awareness campaigns and behaviour change will be of use but consideration may be needed of introducing some form of compulsory duty in the longer term.  It was noted that Ministers have recently agreed  to consider the work of the Cross Party Working Group in the Scottish Parliament on Tenement Management and this issue could be considered alongside that work.

Group two:

  • in terms of barriers, the guidance is voluntary in nature.  
  • consideration should be given as a longer term measures to compulsory factoring or of compulsory responsibilities on owners to ensure compliance.
  • aconsideration for consultation is guidance not being drafted in terms of for private dwellings (i.e. flats) versus common areas.
  • there may be unintended consequences of introducing guidance as building standards are not retrospective, this reinforces the importance of getting the messaging right.
  • enforcement is a key consideration. If a Fire Risk Assessment takes place, how are the recommendations made within it enforced, given this guidance is voluntary? The campaign could help with this and we will need to consider how we influence human behaviours.

Summary of group exercise

  • the issue of private dwellings versus boundaries of common areas came up in the discussions of both groups.  
  • it was noted that over 60% of fires occur in kitchens therefore questions may arise regarding why there is such a focus on guidance relating to common areas.
  • the guidance must be framed in such a way that good fire safety applied to common areas prevents fire spread.
  • the voluntary nature of the proposals enables early implementation but longer term consideration is needed of the potential need for compulsory measures in particular in privately owned blocks given the need for agreement from multiple owners. 

Members were asked if they were content with the draft recommendations, and if they felt any recommendations were missing.  Members advised that they would like time to fully digest and review the recommendations, potentially sharing them with colleagues, before confirming their responses to this question.

Action: Chris Booth to issue slides to the Advisory Group today (28 August) and ask for feedback regarding whether or not anything is missing in terms of the draft recommendations.

Action: Advisory Group members to provide feedback by 4 September.

Timelines and next steps

The draft recommendations will be presented to the next MWG on 27th  September for initial comments.  Subject to any amendments, the final recommendations will go to the MWG scheduled to take place on 22nd November.

The Review Team will also present the potential issues discussed at the meeting today to MWG for further consideration alongside the draft recommendations.

AOB

There was no other business raised.

Date of next meeting

This is possibly last physical meeting of the Advisory Group, however correspondence will follow until this business has been concluded.  Dave thanked all participants for their support and contributions to this work and hoped that many members would be able to contribute to the further development and implementation of the recommendations.