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Enhancing Fire Safety in Residential Buildings

fire safety measures

Enhancing Fire Safety in Residential Buildings

In a significant statement on housing safety, Mr. Gove, the Housing Secretary, has confirmed the government’s intention to mandate second staircases in new build residential buildings over 18 meters. This decision comes following strong support from expert bodies, adding coherence and certainty to the fire safety measures in tall buildings. The government aims to ensure the safety of occupants in both new and existing high-rise structures, building on the reforms and fire safety measures introduced since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Gradual Evolution of Safety Standards

The proposed regulation regarding second staircases represents a considered and gradual evolution of safety standards. By incorporating this measure alongside existing fire safety reforms, the government is demonstrating its commitment to enhancing the overall safety of tall buildings in the UK.

Coherence and Certainty for the Sector

With the confirmation of the intention to mandate second staircases, the government is addressing the sector’s call for coherence and certainty in fire safety measures. By setting a clear threshold of 18 meters, new residential buildings above this height will be required to have more than one staircase, offering an alternative escape route during emergencies.

Ensuring the Viability of Ongoing Projects

While prioritising safety, the government is also mindful of not disrupting long-planned housing schemes. To avoid delays and maintain the viability of projects already underway, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will work closely with industry and regulators to design transitional arrangements. This approach ensures that ongoing developments can proceed smoothly while adhering to the new safety regulations.

Sprinkler Systems for New Care Homes

In addition to second staircases, the government is also considering proposals to mandate sprinkler systems in all new care homes, irrespective of their height. This measure is aimed at enhancing the safety of vulnerable residents and providing crucial support to firefighters during evacuation procedures.

Consultation for Building Regulations Update

The government’s proposals are part of the ongoing efforts to update statutory guidance and building regulations to ensure the safety of those living and working in new developments. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities will conduct a comprehensive 12-week consultation, seeking input from various stakeholders and the public.

Other Measures Under Consideration

The consultation will also explore other important measures, such as removing references to the national classifications (BS 476) from Approved Document B. This step aims to streamline the guidance framework and require construction product manufacturers to test their products to the British standard version of the European Standards, eliminating the dual system in place.

Additionally, the government will undertake a call for evidence on revisions to Approved Document B, focusing on materials and products used in external walls. Industry experts will be invited to share their views on the materials to be covered and suggest ways to enhance the clarity of the guidance provided.

Building on Past Fire Safety Reforms

Since the Grenfell Tower fire, the government has been resolute in its efforts to update and improve fire safety guidance to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. Several significant changes have been made to Building Regulations and guidance, including the ban on combustible materials for residential buildings, hospitals, and student accommodations above 18 meters.

Moreover, the use of Metal Composite Materials, similar to those used in Grenfell, has been banned in all buildings. The department has undertaken extensive work to clarify guidance, ensuring a better understanding of safety standards in the construction industry.

Among other reforms, the threshold for the provision of sprinklers in new blocks of flats has been lowered from 30 meters to 11 meters, while provisions for wayfinding signage for firefighters have been made in new blocks exceeding 11 meters. Additionally, evacuation alert systems have been mandated in new residential buildings over 18 meters in height.

Collaborating for a Safer Future

As the consultation period commences, the government encourages collaboration with industry professionals, including chartered surveyors, to offer their expertise and insights. Together, we can help shape effective and robust fire safety regulations that prioritise the well-being of residents and the wider community. By working in synergy, the UK can continue to advance its commitment to making residential buildings safer for everyone.

The Role of a Clerk of Works

Clerk of Works Role

A Clerk of Works role (CoW) provides expert oversight and scrutiny during the construction of a building project. Acting as an independent representative of the client or owner. They are responsible for ensuring that the work is carried out in accordance with the plans, specifications, contract documents and client requirements.

The main responsibilities of a CoW

The CoW ensures that construction is carried out to the highest standards of quality and safety. It is important for the CoW to have a thorough understanding of construction processes, building codes of practice, regulations, and the requirements of the client. The main responsibilities of the role are listed below.

Reviewing and approving plans and specifications

Before construction begins, the CoW should have the opportunity to review the plans and specifications for the project to ensure accuracy. This may include checking for compliance with building codes and regulations. They will also ensure that the plans and specifications align with the client’s goals and objectives.

Monitoring construction progress

During construction, the CoW visits the site regularly to monitor progress. They ensure that the work is being carried out in accordance with the requirements. This includes checking for compliance with HSE regulations, as well as ensuring that the materials and workmanship meet the required standards.

Inspecting and testing materials

The CoW is responsible for inspecting and testing materials to ensure that they meet the required standards. This includes checking for compliance with industry standards, and also ensuring the materials are suitable for the project.

Keeping accurate records

The CoW is responsible for keeping accurate records of all construction activities, including inspection reports, test results, and any deviations from the plans and specifications. These records are used to ensure that the work is completed to the required standards and to provide a record of the project for future reference.

Communicating with the client

The CoW acts as a liaison between the client and the contractor and is responsible for communicating any issues or concerns that arise during construction. This includes providing regular updates on construction progress, as well as addressing any issues or concerns that the client may have.

Acting as an expert witness

In the event of a dispute or legal action, the CoW may be called upon to act as an expert witness to provide testimony on the construction process and the quality of the work.


In conclusion, Clerk of Works plays a vital role in ensuring that the construction projects are built according to the plans, specifications, and contract documents. Furthermore, they ensure safety and quality standards are adhered too, while also representing client’s interests. They are responsible for monitoring progress, inspecting materials, keeping accurate records, and communicating with all stakeholders involved in the project. Speak to John Burke Associates today about our Clerks of Works Site Quality Inspection Services.

Building a better outlook for mental health

World Suicide Prevention Day 2019

Building a better outlook for mental health

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2019, we wanted to focus this blog on mental illness in the construction industry. This is a growing concern as one of the biggest health and safety issues of the industry. According to the Office of National Statistics, construction workers are more likely to commit suicide than any other profession. A sombre statistic that, consequently, has forced contractors to take action to support their worker’s mental wellbeing. Here at John Burke Associates our Clerk of Works division believe worker wellbeing is paramount.

Why are contractors responsible?

In recent media, videos that have become viral highlight the catastrophic consequences of mental health and construction. Taking care of the wellbeing of your workers will pay dividends to your company and project. However, failing to do so can lead to costly and time-consuming disasters on-site or worse, it can be fatal. If that isn’t bad enough, your whole company’s reputation and ethos can be destroyed in a short time.


What can be done to help?

You may have seen the “Time to Talk” campaign which has been launched in the media. You cannot begin to understand the emotions of another unless you talk. Encouraging a positive. none threatening environment for workers to open up about their mental health is vital. Whilst the industry may be known for “workplace banter” it can both cause and cover-up underlying issues. We must learn to recognise, when to leave the “banter” behind and take emotional wellbeing seriously.

Clerk of Works

Where to get support

There are many initiatives out there to help support better mental health in the workplace. For example, MatesinMind is a, UK registered charity that is actively addressing the stigma of poor mental health. They work with many industries, and supported by the CMI, but the focus is on the construction industry. You can use the links below to find out more;

If you would like to know more about John Burke Associates Clerk of Works division or our other services, please use the links below;