21 June 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Facilities management providers could be more liable to prosecution for fire safety breaches as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire, a health and safety solicitor told delegates at the Facilities Show this week.
Kizzy Augustin, partner at solicitor firm Russell Cooke, was talking at a session at the Firex section of the show about 'Fire Safety and Duty Holders - What Do Those with Individual Responsibility Need to Know?"
She said in light of the tragic fire that claimed 72 lives in 2017, the consequential Hackitt inquiry and the most recent public consultation on building safety, authorities would "cast the net wide of who will be deemed a duty holder" when it comes to fire safety.
She said: "We've always known that duty holders tend to be the responsible person, the owner of building, occupiers of building or employers who work within the building - that's very easy to understand.
"What is not as easy to understand are those that I call 'alternative' responsible persons because there is an obligation for anyone who has, by way of a contract or tenancy, some responsibility for safety or maintenance of a building - that obligation is to take general fire precautions, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the safety of employees and non-employees. They are deemed responsible, but only to the extent to which they have control over the building. So, FM providers are very, very key to that because they do have an obligation for maintenance and they will normally have some sort of contractual arrangement that will assess what that responsibility is. If they are failing to comply with that...they could potentially be in breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order."
Augustin added that this was "a duty FM providers in particular are unaware of or they are unaware of the extent to which that liability could reach".
Augustin said there is "case law on it" and "there is case law on FM providers, property managers ... who have been investigated" because of this.