News & Blogs

Wales bans the use of combustible cladding on high rise buildings from January 2020

The use of combustible cladding on the external walls of high rise buildings in Wales will be banned from 13 January 2020, Housing Minister Julie James has announced.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017, Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, published in May 2018, made recommendations for significant changes in the treatment of high risk residential buildings of 10 storeys or more from their construction through to occupation.

As an immediate response to the report, Ministers made a commitment the Welsh Government would move to ban the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings in Wales (18m or more). The Minister has now approved the Regulations that will put a ban in place.

The ban will apply to combustible cladding on all new residential buildings (flats, student accommodation and care homes) and hospitals over 18m in height. The ban covers the entire height of the building, and will apply to the complete wall assembly and certain attachments to the external wall, including balconies and solar panels.

The ban will also apply to existing buildings where relevant building work is being carried out which falls within the scope of the Building Regulations (unless the building works have started on-site or an initial notice, building notice or full plans have been deposited and work has started on site within a period of 8 weeks).

You can read the press release, along with comments from the Housing Minister, here

Fire safety guidance for high-rise homes – Scotland

Advice for residents and those responsible for fire safety.

Residents in high-rise properties are being given leaflets outlining how to prevent fires in the home and what to do if one starts in their building. The advice, produced by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, is being delivered to high-rise homes from December and will also be available in libraries and community centres in all 15 local authorities with the properties.

The fire safety leaflet can be found here

Guidance is also being published for those responsible for fire safety in high-rise buildings, including councils, housing associations, owners and private landlords.

It is important that those responsible for fire safety in high-rise buildings also have the most relevant, up-to-date information. That is why a single source of guidance covering general fire safety and fire risk assessments is being published.

Practical fire safety guidance for existing high rise domestic buildings can be found here

Construction Body launches Work at Height guide

CONIAC resource provides key messages to all involved in work at height.

Leading construction industry body CONIAC (the Construction Industry Advisory Council) has produced a guide entitled ‘Safety Steps’, designed to help anyone looking to ensure safe work at height.

‘Safety Steps’ is aimed primarily at five key work at height audiences: designers, clients, managers (those who manage work at height), supervisors and operatives.

The document has been produced by the ‘Managing Risk Well’ Group, a leading safety group within CONIAC. Safety Steps can be used freely – in whole or part – to help produce any type of output for the five target audiences shown above, such as:

. Training materials
. Flow charts/infographics
. Toolbox talks/checklists
. Poster/sticker campaigns
. Social media campaigns
. Rules and guidelines
. Articles

Paul Reeve CFIOSH, chair of the sub-group that produced ‘Safety Steps’, commented:

“’Safety Steps’ provides the essential safety messages for the five key groups involved in work at height in construction and maintenance. It’s designed as an ‘enabling’ guide – meaning it can help anyone to produce, or just check, virtually any type of output that’s looking to support safe work at height”.

‘Safety Steps’ covers general, rather than task-specific, messages (e.g. using scaffolding, mobile work platforms or working on roofs). However, its essential messages underpin any type of work at height activity.

To access the free Safety Steps guide please click here


Scottish Housing Regulator highlights the importance of landlords ensuring tenant and resident safety

The Scottish Housing Regulator has written to all social landlords to highlight the importance of meeting their duties to keep tenants and residents safe. The Regulator’s letter comes after it identified that some of the registered social landlords it had been engaging with had been unable to show they met the required duties. This includes those around the management of asbestos and electrical safety.

It also found that the governing bodies of these landlords did not seek or get the necessary assurance that their organisation was meeting its legal duties on tenant and resident safety.

The Regulator requires landlords to assure themselves that they are complying with all relevant duties around the safety of tenants’ homes.

Ian Brennan, Director of Regulation, said:
‘Social landlords must ensure they meet all duties on tenant and resident safety and that they obtain the necessary assurances about their compliance. They must ensure that they are taking prompt action to address any non-compliance’.

You can access copies of the letters on the Scottish Housing Regulators site here

The Regulator in England has been reminding Social Landlords of this requirement for many years; in fact our Director, Vicki, has worked with many of them over a number of years to carry out compliance audits and support them in providing assurance, over and above that of the ‘internal audit’ function… there are many examples of failings and the lessons that can be learned from the English Sector and she would be pleased to speak with organisation in Scotland to offer advice and support.

Council Fined for Hand Arm Vibration (HAVs) Failings

Dacorum Borough Council has been fined for exposing seven grounds maintenance workers to Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS), caused by excessive use of power tools. Dacorum Borough Council reported seven cases of HAVS between May 2015 and June 2016. The affected employees were all part of its grounds maintenance and street care team, looking after the public spaces in Hertfordshire

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the council had neither adequately planned its working methods nor trained or informed employees on the risks to their health.

Furthermore, Dacorum Borough Council did not limit the duration or magnitude of exposure to vibration and failed to put in place suitable health surveillance to identify problems at any early stage.

Dacorum Borough Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and have been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £28,672.62.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Rubeena Surnam said “This was a case of the council failing to identify the risk from hand arm vibration which is a recognised health risk with potentially disabling consequences. Unless vibration is identified and properly assessed, an employer won’t know the level of risk and whether action is needed to protect workers.”

Read the full story from the HSE here

There is a wealth of information for employers here, including how to get started with vibration risk assessment.

Vicki shortlisted for Women in Housing award…

Our Director, Vicki Cutler, has been shortlisted as a finalist for Consultant of the Year in the Women in Housing Awards.

The Women in Housing Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding women working in housing. We all know that the work of housing organisations is crucial, but so too is the work of the many consultants that support their work.

This award recognises someone who works as a consultant and makes a crucial contribution in housing.

Vicki said ‘I’m absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted as a finalist for Consultant of the Year at the Women in Housing Awards, the recognition of consultants and their work with organisations is really welcome. I work with so many organisations now in respect of Health, Safety & Compliance, their focus to improve health and safety, particularly in the key areas of landlord safety, shows just how important it is to ensure the safety of their own staff and the tenants who live in their properties’

She will be off to the awards ceremony in October .. Good Luck Vicki and congratulations.



Roundup of Advice from MCHLG

There has been considerable activity with ongoing advice from MHCLG.

This has included further advice;

For maintaining a building with High Pressure Laminate (HPL) cladding systems over 18 metres tall; Advice Note 22 – Use of High Pressure Laminate Panels in external wall systems should be read in conjunction with advice note 14: external wall systems that do not incorporate ACM.

You can find the information you need here

A report on 25 different timber fire doors that passed the 30-minute standard on both sides when manufactured to specification and installed correctly and had the required documentation and certification was released.

The test data is provided to inform building owners building risk assessments and plans for fitting and repair or replacement of fire doors. Details within the note provide important context for the results supplied which represent only a sample of the market and are only relevant for the specific model of door set tested from the manufacturer. The note does not make any recommendations for fitting, repair or replacement, which is a matter for individual building owners and their advisers.

You can find the information you need here:

Neil O’Connor (Director, Building Safety Programme) is asking local authorities to collect data on the buildings in their area about external wall systems used on high rise residential buildings.

All of the information you need can be found here

The Fire Protection Association (FPA) has at the request of MHCLG tested a HPL panel system with stone wool insulation, in accordance with British Standard 8414, in a 9-metre high wall rig and a full report is available.

You can access the report here

Revised BSI Standard issued – BS 8580-1:2019 Water quality. Risk assessments for Legionella control. Code of practice

What is this standard about?

This standard supplies guidance on a way to conduct Legionella risk assessments, which are a legal requirement. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 make specific requirements for risk assessment. These regulations apply to the control of Legionella and are embodied in the Approved Code of Practice and guidance document, Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems, otherwise known as ACoP L8.

Why should you use this standard?

The standard applies to risk assessments being undertaken on premises, plant and systems for the first time, and to review and audit where a previous assessment has been undertaken and where control measures might have been implemented.

What’s changed since the last update?

The standard has been renamed (from BS 8580 to BS 8580-1) and revised to align it with the HSE ACoP L8 (4th edition) (Approval code of Practice) and associated guidance documents such as HSG 274 (Legionnaires’ disease – Technical guidance) which were revised in 2014. The revision also takes into account HSG 282 – Control of legionella and other infectious agents in spa-pools – a system that was published in January 2017. There was also a need to update references within the standard.

What the changes entail

  • The most significant changes relate to the competence of risk assessors (section 5.1) and the preparation of the risk assessment report (section 9).
  • If followed, the guidance should lead to the production by competent individuals of brief, clear, user-friendly reports lacking superfluous information.
  • Section 8 ‘Evaluation of the Risk’ and section 10 ‘Risk Review and Reassessment’ have also had some re-organisation and modification to improve clarity.
  • The annexes have been updated in particular: annex B on hot and cold water systems has been extensively revised; annex D, Spa Pools, has been updated to encompass the nomenclatural and other changes within HSG 282; and annex E, Other Systems, includes more information on humidifiers, vehicle wash systems, and thermal processing of food.

You can find out more on the BSI website here

Fire safety failures in over half of care homes audited in new London Fire Brigade report

Serious fire safety failures have been found in care homes across London by Brigade inspectors.

London Fire Brigade carried out a detailed inspection of 177 properties in late 2018; these inspections identified a number of fire safety failures and 57% of the care homes inspected received a formal notification from London Fire Brigade to address these issues.

The 177 care homes were visited to gauge the level of fire risk across the capital in a one-off series of in-depth inspections. The Brigade’s findings included the following serious fire safety breaches:

• One in three premises with inadequate or poorly maintained fire doors
• Widespread confusion about fire evacuation strategies
• Fire risk assessments being carried out by people without the proper skills and experience
• Roofs being omitted from fire risk assessments (roof voids often increase the spread and severity of a fire)

In 45% of the 177 care homes the fire risk assessment was found to be not suitable or not sufficiently comprehensive. Many fire risk assessments were found to have been carried out by in-house managers and demonstrated a lack of understanding or information about basic fire safety principles. However, it was also worrying that some which had been done by a Fire Risk Assessor did not always clearly and sufficiently cover the issues of evacuation strategy and numbers of staff required in a comprehensive way.

In 14% of the 177 care homes inspected there was evidence of poor emergency planning, or a potential lack of staff to implement the plan. There was evidence of confusion in the documentation, or among managers and staff, over the premises emergency plan. There were also some cases of ‘generic evacuation strategies’, where the care home operator has more than one premises, rather than an emergency plan that is site specific. In these cases it was difficult to align the emergency plan with the staffing levels, actions and responsibilities. There was also evidence in some cases that management misunderstood/underestimated the importance of sufficient staffing levels, particularly during evening/night shifts, in order to carry out a safe evacuation in the event of fire.

In 10% of the 177 care homes there was evidence of inadequate training for staff/managers. Fire safety training was found to be ‘online’ only in some cases, rather than in-house practical training (where evacuation drills may be included). Fire safety training is becoming generic, rather than providing a bespoke package relating to the specific premises a care worker regularly works in. It is further complicated where care workers are also expected to work in more than one care home.

In 14% of the 177 care homes inspected we found evidence of failures relating to their protected escape corridors and 29% had failures relating to fire doors within their premises.

The LFB are so concerned that they have written to every care home in the capital demanding they urgently review their fire risk assessments, emergency plans and staff training. The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner Dan Daly said: “Over half the care homes we inspected had to make improvements to their fire safety arrangements despite them housing some of London’s most vulnerable residents. Care home owners need to urgently review their fire risk assessments and ensure their staff know how to safely evacuate their residents, especially those who are immobile’.

You can read the Brigades care home audit report, in full, here

Council fined after worker suffers serious injuries to right arm

Darlington Borough Council has been sentenced after a self-employed labourer was injured when a pack of roof trusses fell on him.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 5 October 2017, a self-employed labourer was working for two self-employed bricklayers sub-contracted to Darlington Borough Council. He was walking past the front of the building plot at Allington Way, Darlington, when a pack of roof trusses fell on him, trapping him by the head and arm.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there was an overall failure to adequately monitor work activities at the site at Allington Way, Darlington.

Contributing factors to the incident included inadequate arrangements for the storage of roof trusses, failure to manage the amount of materials on site, failure to plan for parking of vehicles on site and poor housekeeping on site.

Darlington Borough Council of Town Hall, Darlington pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and has today been fined £28,000 with £1,648.45 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrea Robbins said: “It is vital that work activities on construction sites are properly planned, managed and monitored to prevent issues like this developing on site – the failures found here ultimately led to the roof trusses falling onto the labourer, causing serious injuries. This could have been prevented.

Read the full HSE story here