Latest News

Preparing for changes to how cladding is regulated in Scotland

Following the Grenfell Tower disaster, we have seen changes to how cladding is regulated in Scotland. The most recent change comes into force on 1 June 2022 in terms of the Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2022 (the 2022 regulations) – introducing a ban on the use of combustible cladding on buildings of 11 metres or more in height. The key changes are as follows:

1. Previously developers could use combustible cladding on high-rise buildings provided that they pass a large-scale fire assessment. The regulations now categorically ban any combustible cladding.

2. The combustible cladding ban will apply to all buildings of 11 metres or more in height and which fall into one of the following categories:

  • residential dwellings – including a sheltered housing complex or a shared multi-occupancy residential building
  • buildings used as a place of assembly
  • a place of entertainment or recreation
  • hospitals or residential care building

3. The legislation is retrospective and so will also apply to incompliant cladding on buildings constructed prior to 1 June 2022.

As a result, current owners of buildings that were originally constructed in full compliance with buildings regulations at the relevant time may now find themselves in breach of the new regulations overnight.

As the 2022 regulations apply retrospectively, in many  cases, affected buildings will be fully occupied as businesses and homes, and uildings to which works are required will frequently adjoin other buildings in third party ownership.

While the spotlight has been on residential blocks of flats in the traditional sense, the impact of the new regulations is much wider reaching and extends to living sector developments that also exist as commercial investments, such as student accommodation, and some purely commercial developments that fall into the recreation and entertainment categories e.g. cinemas.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

© Shoosmiths LLP 2022

A Pathway to PEEPs in Residential Buildings

On 7th April, our fire safety associate, Tony Bolder, delivered a webinar to an audience of Fireco; Tony talks about the Equality Act 2010 and its implications as well as the duty of care and the ‘neighbour principle’ in case law before moving on to provide an understanding of the person centred risk assessment (PCRA) and its application with new guidance and expectations and what the connection between PCRA and PEEPs is.

We have received some really great feedback about the session, so if you’d like to watch it back, you can do so here:

Asbestos removal company fined and two of its employees jailed for failing to protect workers

This is the latest news headline from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation by them found irregularities in the asbestos surveys and clearance certificates, with some of them found to be fraudulent.

So what happened?

The HSE’s prosecution gives minimal details of the actual breach but it seems that Ensure Asbestos Management Ltd had been appointed to carry out a major refurbishment of a former Plymouth Department Store. The company had been contracted to carry out an asbestos survey, remove all identified asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from the building and then carry out the initial strip-out of the building before it was refurbished. However, the company was found to have deliberately cut corners in managing the danger of asbestos exposure putting workers at risk.

It appears that the Ensure was carrying out the removal works on behalf of the client and were found to be falsifying documentation such as clearance certification which in itself is indicative that whatever work they were doing would have fallen within the confines of licensed work (otherwise there would not be a clearance certificate necessarily provided).

It appears Ensure did not (and does not) hold a current valid asbestos removal license from the HSE although they did hold one for a year in Jan 2016- Jan 2017, which is interesting given that the offence detailed above occurred in Feb 2017.

The fact that the prosecution includes the statement that there were ‘irregularities in the surveys’ suggests that the same organisation who were removing the asbestos were also the ones who initially located it which is generally not good practice.

Fines & Prosecution

Ensure Asbestos Management Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was fined £100,000. The Director of Ensure Asbestos Management pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He has been sentenced to 10 months in prison and has been disqualified from being a director for five years.

The Contracts Manager at Ensure Asbestos Management pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1), 3(1) and 33(1)(m) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and disqualified from being a director for 10 years.

Matt, our asbestos specialist says….

‘We would always advise our clients to ensure separation between survey and removal contractors and we strongly advocate that our clients appoint their own analytical provision to ensure that they have an awareness of what is happening on their site during asbestos remediation works.

The problem is, as it has always been, that some clients place huge faith in their appointed contractors to the point that their own internal understanding falls by the wayside.  Whilst we would say that the majority of contractors who are appointed, do strive for high standards of work there are always those who seek to profit from a lack of understanding’.

For further information regarding our training courses including our ‘exclusive’ BOHS endorsed training relating to asbestos removal projects, please contact us.

Record fine for fire safety breaches; the shape of things to come?

Private healthcare provider Bupa has been ordered to pay a purported record £1.04 million penalty (fine and costs combined) after admitting fire safety failings.

London Fire Brigade, prosecuting, said it was the “highest ever fine for fire safety breaches in the UK, [highlighting] the seriousness of Bupa’s failure to protect a vulnerable resident in its care.”

The care home environment presents unique challenges, and is one in which the consequences of getting fire safety wrong are potentially catastrophic. Even in the absence of significant human cost, the financial costs associated with a breach of regulations can have a major impact on businesses. The reputational cost might be more serious still. In this article, Shoosmiths consider the potential costs of failing to discharge fire safety duties; both within the care sector and beyond. You can read the full article here.

Technical bulletin from the FIA: ‘The Status of PAS 79-2 & LGA Fire Safety in Purpose-built Blocks of Flats Guide’

PAS79-2

PAS79-2 was removed from sale on the BSI website pending conversion of the PAS into a full British Standard. As an interim measure, BSI have made the original PAS 79-2 available for download, free of charge, from the BSI website. However, all references to disabled people have been redacted from the document, including advice regarding the need to provide disabled people with a facility to discuss their evacuation in the event of fire.

Fire Safety in Purpose-built Blocks of Flats Guide

The Guide, originally published in 2011 is now hosted on the Home Office section of the Government website with three paragraphs dealing with evacuation of vulnerable people having been redacted, pending analysis of responses to the government consultation on PEEPS. FIA advise members to continue to use this Guide and concur with the IFSM as to the value of its content to all those involved with fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats. Again, members should use their judgement to ensure that fire safety for disabled people is adequately addressed.

The technical bulletin has been produced by FIA to assist those who may experience confusion with regards to these two useful documents. For avoidance of doubt, the FIA strongly support the use of the downloadable version of PAS 79-2 for guidance and recommendations on carrying out fire risk assessments for housing premises and the Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats guide. With regard to disabled evacuation, given that all guidance on this matter has been redacted from documents, it will be for fire risk assessors to use their own judgement in respect of this matter.

Full information and advice from the FIA is in this document.

BOHS Simple Ventilation Self-Help Guide for Workplaces During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Why are we still talking about ventilation and coronavirus?

  • Workplaces still have a duty to reduce exposure of the workers to COVID-19.
  • The most effective measure against the spread of coronavirus and its variants is social distancing.
  • Vaccination is having a huge positive effect on health outcomes but should not be relied upon instead of proper controls for coronavirus prevention. Read more about why here.
  • However, while social distancing measures are being relaxed in public places, good ventilation remains a really powerful tool to limit the risk of coronavirus spreading amongst your workforces. Good ventilation is also really important to dilute any contaminants in the air and provide clean air to protect the health of the people in the space.

Why has BOHS developed a non-technical ventilation check tool?

  • Ventilation in buildings is complex, that’s why, in addition to the excellent technical guidance available here, we produced some simple frequently asked questions (FAQs). However, a really frequently asked question happens to be: Is my ventilation good enough?
  • The answer will depend on a lot of different things. This is why we have created a very simple tool that you can use to help you. It aims to give some guidance to employers, building users and building owners about whether their ventilation is going to have any effect on reducing coronavirus transmission.
  • However, if you have any doubts, you should refer to a ventilation specialist, or an occupational hygienist to assess the risk in your workplace, such as those listed on the BOHS consultant’s directory.

What does the tool do?

  • The tool enables you to put in basic information about a workspace, the number of people who use it and the types of ventilation you have.
  • It uses a very basic scoring system to give you an indication as to whether your ventilation is likely to have no effect, some effect, or a strong effect on reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission.
  • It works for spaces that people spend time in (not stairwells and corridors where people are in for short periods) and where the building meets current building regulations requirements in terms of ventilation.
  • This should give you an idea whether your ventilation can be used to have an impact on reducing coronavirus transmission.

What doesn’t the tool do?

  • This tool does not assess all forms/methods of ventilation of a room, it only provides an indication of ventilation performance for the most common methods of ventilation. There are lots of other things that can affect ventilation effectiveness (look at the BOHS ventilation FAQs for further guidance).
  • The tool does not cover the other coronavirus transmission routes. Ventilation alone won’t prevent transmission. You still need to think about other control measures in COVID-19 risk assessment (Look at the BOHS control risk matrix for further help).
  • The tool looks at one space at a time. You should not try and use it for complex spaces with walls, partitions or a whole building. You will need to take one ventilated workspace at a time.

Making time to save lives

This year’s Fire Door Safety Week ran from 20-26 September with the aim of raising awareness of the critical role that fire doors play in saving lives and protecting property in the unfortunate event of a fire.

During this important week, Housing H&S Compliance UK Ltd made a very timely visit to ClwydAlyn Housing Association on the 23 and 24 September to deliver the two day IFSM Accredited Fire Doors in Residential Buildings Diploma to a number of the team.

This two-day course, which is split in to six ‘bite-size’ modules, provided delegates with the theory behind the requirements, including legislation and guidance as well as practical assessment to ensure that delegates knew how to put into practice what they had learned.

Our course is crammed full of useful information, which not only includes a look at fire door specifications, individual standards and inspection but includes the background knowledge to ensure that fire doors are not looked at in isolation, including fire dynamics and passive compartmentation

The course was carefully created by fire safety specialist, Tony Bolder FRACS, MIFSM, GIFireE, TechIOSH, DipNEBOSH, DipFD, CertFDI alongside Housing H&S Compliance UK Ltd Director and Social Housing Safety Specialist, Vicki Cutler CFIOSH, MIIRSM, MIFSM, CMgr MCMI.

The course is expertly delivered by Tony who has over 27 years’ experience (operational and safety roles) within the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) and over 30 in the fire sector. A real expert in his field, Tony is a UKAS third-party accredited life safety fire risk assessor and also a third-party accredited fire door inspector, through both FDIS and NAFDI. He is also proud to have been selected to serve as a co-opted member of the IFSM Council.

We were delighted to let all delegates know at the end of the two days that they had all successfully passed the course; confirming that they found the training extremely valuable and crucial to their roles.

Here’s some of the feedback received from the ClwydAlyn team:

‘A very in depth course with lots of practical information delivered by a very knowledgeable trainer.’

‘Excellent course! I knew the basics of fire doors previously, but the course has opened my eyes on what’s involved to fully inspect fire doors and their importance within a building.’

‘Good visuals and handouts. Practical and good advice.’

If you’d like to know more about the course you can visit our website and download the flyer and information here: https://www.housingcompliance.co.uk/fire-training-courses/ or get in touch for further information.

News: Safety case principles for high-rise residential buildings

The Building Safety Bill has now entered Parliament. It proposes changes to building safety law that will place new duties on those who are responsible for the safety of high-rise residential buildings.

Fires and serious structural incidents in high-rise residential buildings are thankfully rare. Nevertheless, when they happen their consequences for people in or around the building can be catastrophic, and a single incident can affect a number of people and their homes. The Bill therefore proposes a proportionate and systematic regulatory approach to prevent and reduce the severity of a serious fire or structural failure.

It includes more stringent requirements for residential buildings that are seven storeys or more, or 18 metres and above, in height. This document aims to give early insights into some of these potential changes to help those who may have new roles to prepare for the reforms. As you read this material, you must keep in mind that the law has not yet been settled, so the points covered may be subject to change.

This document outlines the new approach proposed in England for the management and control of fire and structural hazards in buildings and the first steps towards understanding and preparing a safety case under the new regime. Residents, developers, other stakeholders such as property insurers, and building users may also have an interest in the potential role of safety cases in ensuring building safety. The document is the outcome of ongoing collaboration between Government, HSE and partner regulators, and industry.

(The above is an extract from the foreword by Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings)

You can read the full document here; you can also email any views and comments to the Building Safety Programme at BSP@hse.gov.uk by 22 October 2021.

News: Protecting lone workers

Lone workers can be at greater risk of harm as they may not have anyone to help or support them if things go wrong.

Employers should provide training, supervision, monitoring and support for those working alone.

HSE’s free to download leaflet ‘Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone‘ is for anyone who employs lone workers, or engages them as contractors etc, including self-employed people or those who work alone.

The leaflet is supported by lone working webpages which include advice aimed at lone workers themselves.

Digital tools from Electrical Safety First helping to keep consumers safe

In the UK, the response rate to an electrical product recall or safety notice is less than 20%. With low levels of product registration, manufacturers can find it very challenging to trace affected products, leaving consumers unaware that they have a potentially dangerous appliance in their home.

The leading consumer charity Electrical Safety First has developed some free digital tools that will help people check for electrical product recalls and register their appliances.

This useful document contains more information.