Asbestos was widely used as an insulation and fire proofing solution, until it was finally banned in the UK in 1999 – it is now illegal to use (buy or sell) any form of asbestos in the UK. Some of the pre -1999 properties which are likely to have, or may have, asbestos containing materials in their structure have to be assessed by an Asbestos Assessor by law and any asbestos material must be identified, managed and monitored. This asbestos report/register is to be made available to contractors and residents by the Landlord/Managing Agent. It is important that residents understand that interfering with the structure of their flat i.e. the walls in a pre -2000 building, could result in the release of hidden asbestos materials. This is why there is a requirement for co-operation and co-ordination between residents and Landlords/Managing Agents when planning such an activity.
Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 – provides for a safe environment for those carrying out work(s) and those who use work areas (communal areas for instance).
Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations - focuses on risk assessments and how to use them effectively to identify potential hazards, risks and preventive measures that can be applied to the management and surveillance of Health, Safety & Fire Risk Assessment and procedures that should be followed in the event of serious or imminent danger.
Health & Safety in blocks of flats is usually considered to affect only those who work there. Whilst it is true that the majority of the legislation refers to work activities, others who use the work area (such as residents walking through communal areas) have to comply with the safety arrangements (a Duty of Care). This could mean ensuring that you do not interfere with anything put in place for Health & Safety reasons. A duty of care is a legal obligation which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care, while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.
Properties such as flats or blocks of flats and houses of multi-occupancy, have to be the subject of a Health, Safety & Fire Risk Assessment on a 1-3 year basis. This assessment report is to be made available to residents by the Landlord/Managing Agent.
Fire Safety in blocks of flats
The easiest way to protect your home and family from fire is with a working smoke alarm.
- People living in flats experience more fires than people living in houses. However, a fire in a flat is no more dangerous than a fire in a house.
- High-rise does not mean high-risk!
- To keep fire risk to a minimum, it is just as important to prevent fires as it is to provide measures to protect people when fire occurs.
- The most significant influences on fire risk are social and lifestyle factors and advanced age, not the type of dwelling in which people live.
- In blocks of flats, each flat is designed to be a fire-resisting ‘box’. It is important to maintain the integrity of this compartment, particularly when building work and alterations take place.
- It is important to ensure that fires cannot start in the common parts or common facilities, as these are usually part of your escape route. This why nothing should be stored in these areas, so that a clear route to safety is available at all times.
Remember, if you plan on making any alterations to your flat, then you must advise the freeholder immediately. The type of alteration may involve the fitting of a new main entry door or installing a letter box in the door, both of which must meet certain fire resistant standards. The aim is to ensure that any fire in your flat is delayed from spreading into the communal areas by at least 30 minutes. This is called co-operation and co-ordination and is something which must be done by law.
Legionella is water borne bacteria which, if allowed to exist in water systems and given the conditions to thrive, present a significant health risk, which is potentially fatal. The risk from legionella bacteria is especially high to vulnerable individuals such as the elderly.
Residential blocks of flats have a legal health and safety duty of care under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 to those working, living or using the building to protect against the risk of legionella.
Specifically, Management Companies, Landlords and Managing Agents are expected to be aware of L8, the Approved Code of Practice, “Legionnaires disease: Control of legionella bacteria in water systems”.
L8 recommends that regular routine testing for legionella be carried out.
Areas of concern are:-
- Where water has been stagnant for a period of time, for example an empty property.
- Where properties have cooling towers.
- Older and larger blocks of flats which may have complicated plumbing or may have been added to or replaced at various stages.
To comply with current legislation Management Companies, Landlords and Managing Agents will need to:-
Appoint a responsible person, arrange a risk assessment to check the water system and determine the risks. A Management Plan should be implemented and If risks are determined, a program to cleanse and disinfect the water system should be devised.
Following the above procedure, on-going water samples may be tested, providing proof that your water remains free from legionella. Each of the above stages should be documented as part of the Management Plan.
Symptoms of legionella starts quickly, ranging from a mild cough and fever, to respiratory failure and multi-organ failure.
Contractors carrying out work in the block have to provide risk assessments and method statements to the Management Company, Landlords and Managing Agents. They may refer to maintenance tasks such as lifts, fire alarms, smoke detectors etc. Their arrangements for safety whilst carrying out work in the block must not be interfered with.
All contractors must be provided with and inspect the asbestos report/register prior to carrying out any works on the property. The management company, landlords and managing agents have a duty to provide the asbestos report/register and the contractor has a duty to request and inspect it. This is for the protection of residents, visitors and contractors employees.
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