4. Risk prevention
Preventative measures aim to stop or reduce the likelihood of a building safety risk happening. This section describes some of the common preventative measures. However, other measures may be present or reasonable, and this is not an exhaustive list.
This section focuses on the spread of fire which is a named building safety risk under the Act. The best way to avoid the spread of fire is to prevent a fire from starting in the first place.
Preventing the spread of fire
Fire compartments are fire-resisting enclosures providing fire separation between parts of the building. Typical fire compartments include:
- individual flats
- service risers
- staircase enclosures
In mixed-use buildings, fire compartmentation should also separate flats from the rest of the building.
The purpose of fire compartments is to prevent the spread of fire from where it starts to other compartments. It can also help to protect the means of escape from the building.
An incident involving building safety risks may be a fire that spreads beyond the compartment where it starts. This underlines the importance of the design, construction, and maintenance of effective compartmentation and fire barriers. Effective fire resistance to parts of the building's structure will also help to prevent structural collapse if an incident happens.
Fire-resisting door sets, normally referred to as fire doors, help to prevent the spread of fire and sometimes smoke. They also help to protect a building's escape routes. Fire doors offer fire resistance for a specified number of minutes. If an “S” follows the number of minutes of stated protection, the set includes a smoke seal providing smoke resistance for the same period.
Fire door sets should be specified and installed correctly. A fire door set includes the door itself and the frame and door furniture such as locks and handles.
Inspect your fire doors regularly to ensure they remain in good working condition and will perform as intended in a fire. Typical checks would include:
- missing or broken self-closing devices
- damaged doors or frames
- doors replaced with non-fire-resisting types
You'll find further guidance in BS 8214:2016.
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 set out expectations for some of the measures in place to control building safety risks, including the inspection of fire doors.
Fire stopping provides a seal to prevent the passage of fire where utility services - such as water pipes or electricity cables - penetrate fire compartments. Some fire stops also prevent the passage of smoke.
As well as ensuring initial integrity, pay particular attention to fire stopping during any changes or refurbishment. These may be changes made by you, or by contractors working on the building. They could also be residents making changes to their own flats, such as fitting a new bathroom suite or installing a new broadband connection cable. If you need temporary measures while work is ongoing, agree these when planning the work.
Cavity barriers close voids and open spaces to stop unrestricted movement of smoke and flame. These could be in:
- ceiling voids
- roof spaces
- wall cavities
- between floors
- around window reveals
As with fire stopping, refurbishment or other changes to the building can have an impact on cavity barriers. Changes may affect the integrity of what is already there, or need extra cavity barriers. Uninformed contractors can easily destroy cavity barriers when carrying out their work. You should ensure contractors working onsite understand the importance of such measures.
Structural prevention measures
A number of measures help promote structural integrity to prevent a structural building safety risk happening. These include:
- initial design and construction
- the competence (skill, knowledge, experience and behaviours) of those involved
- preventing the ingress of water or other substances that might degrade or weaken the building's structure over time
- maintenance and inspection, including acting on any issues found
Other risk prevention measures
Other measures that may prevent or reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring include:
- maintenance and inspection of electrical installations in common parts of the building
- lightning protection systems
- measure to prevent or minimise the effect of arson
- gas safety measures
- avoiding the build-up of rubbish