Letter from Melanie Dawes to owners, landlords and managers of private residential blocks about safety checks following the Grenfell Tower fire

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Melanie Dawes, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has written to owners, landlords and managers of private residential blocks about safety checks following the Grenfell Tower fire. The government is making available testing facilities for private owners of residential blocks that have cladding made of aluminium composite material, and the letter explains how to identify this cladding, and access the testing facilities.

The letter, and supporting documents, can be viewed by clicking on the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safety-checks-on-private-residential-blocks and we have published the contents below. Queries should be directed to PRShousingchecks@communities.gsi.gov.uk, but if you require any general assistance regarding fire safety in blocks of flats, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Safety checks on private residential blocks

This letter is intended for owners, landlords and managers of private residential blocks in England. Representative bodies for the private residential sector have kindly agreed to disseminate this letter to their members, and we are grateful for their assistance.

Following the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington last week, we want to ensure you are aware of help that is available in checking your buildings.

There has been much public concern and comment about potential flaws in the cladding that was on Grenfell Tower. While the exact reasons for the speed of the spread of fire have yet to be determined, we have concluded that there are additional tests that can be undertaken with regard to the cladding. We have asked local authorities and social housing providers to identify whether any panels used in new build or refurbishment of their own housing stock are a particular type of cladding made of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). These checks will be relevant to privately owned and managed residential buildings too, so please can you consider carrying out these checks on your buildings.

More details on how to identify this cladding are in Annex A below.  It is important to stress that ACM cladding is not of itself dangerous, but it is important that the right type is used. If you identify that cladding on any of your buildings is made of ACM, then a sample can be tested.

This testing facility is also being made available to blocks that are privately owned, and your local authority may already have been in touch to make you aware of this.  The procedures for taking up this offer of testing, which will be paid for by DCLG, are set out in the annex. We are prioritising buildings over six storeys or 18 metres high.  The offer is for the initial testing only and the cost of any remedial action will be the responsibility of the owner of the building. The information from the checks will be available to DCLG from BRE. Please contact us at PRShousingchecks@communities.gsi.gov.uk if you have any queries.

Where the entire block is not owned and managed by the same party, please ensure that only one sample is provided and that any necessary permissions are obtained for taking and sending off the sample. We would not expect individual leaseholders within a building to send off samples for testing.

As well as this work it is of course important that owners / landlords have robust fire assessments for their properties.

Thank you for your cooperation in this important work.

MELANIE DAWES

Annex A

Protocol for Sampling of Aluminium Composite Material Cladding

Identification of Aluminium Composite Material Cladding

Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) is a type of flat panel that consists of two thin aluminium sheets bonded to a non-aluminium core, typically between 3 and 7mm thick. The panels can have a painted or metallic finish (eg copper or zinc effects). It can be differentiated from solid aluminium sheet by looking at a cut edge whereby the lamination is visible. It may be necessary to cut a hole in a panel if a cut edge is not readily accessible.

On buildings with a floor over 18m above ground level, where ACM panels are identified, it is necessary to establish whether the panels are of a type that complies with the Building Regulations guidance ie the core material should be a material of limited combustibility or Class A2.

Testing of ACM

To allow for the identification of core materials, we are putting in place Government-funded testing capacity that will allow a small sample of the cladding to be tested and its type identified. If you wish to take up this offer, then you will need to submit samples for testing.

Where the surveyor undertaking assessment of a composite panel determines that it is necessary for cladding to be subjected to laboratory screening they should follow this procedure:

  1. Cut out two samples of at least 250x250mm in size from each location sampled. Take photographs as necessary to identify the location of the sample. You should take samples from above and below 18m above ground level as appropriate and check different multiple panels where you have concern that material specification varies.
  1. Using an indelible ink pen, note the building name / number, postcode and a unique identifier (i.e. name of building owner followed by unique sample number e.g. ABC/001) traceable to the specific location within the building of each sample. Add a direct dial telephone or mobile contact number to be used in the event that there are any queries on the sample.
  1. You must make good by closing the hole using a non-combustible sheet such as steel fixed with self-tapping screws or rivets.
  1. Complete the data return form attached to this letter (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/620798/Data_Return_Form_for_testing_of_ACM_-_private_residential.xlsx) and include a hard copy of it with the sample. You should provide as much information as is readily available, but not if this will delay submission of samples for testing.
  1. Place one of the samples from each location in a padded envelope with a copy of the data return form. Clearly mark the envelope URGENT – CLADDING TEST SAMPLE.
  1. Send the test samples by recorded delivery or courier to:

BRE, Bucknalls Lane, Garston, Watford, Herts, WD25 9XX

For any testing related queries please email material.screening@bre.co.uk

  1. Retain the second sample from each location for your own records or for testing in the event that samples are lost or misplaced in transit

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 17TH FEBRUARY 2016

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Health and safety in the film, theatre and broadcasting industries – HSE to prosecute film company after Star Wars incident

DSEAR Regulations – manufacturing company and director fined for safety failings

Asbestos health and safety – company fined for safety failings when dealing with asbestos at a school

Introduction

The Health and Safety Executive made headline news last week after informing the film company responsible for producing ‘Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens’ that it will be prosecuted over an incident in which actor Harrison Ford was seriously injured during filming. We open this week’s update with HSE guidance for those involved in the film, theatre and broadcasting industries.

On a less glamorous note, we also highlight the risks associated with metal containers once containing highly flammable liquid or vapour, and of cutting them with angle grinders, after a manufacturing company and its director were fined when an empty 45 gallon steel drum once containing flammable liquid caught fire and exploded whilst being cut in half.

And finally, we remind our readers about the serious health risks of asbestos following yet another related prosecution by the HSE after a company contracted to carry out roof refurbishment at a primary school disturbed asbestos insulation board in a small plant room.

We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Health and safety in the film, theatre and broadcasting industries – HSE to prosecute film company after Star Wars incident

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has today informed a film company that it will be prosecuted over an incident in which actor Harrison Ford was seriously injured during the filming of Star Wars: The Forces Awakens.

The film company, which is based in London, will appear at High Wycombe Magistrates Court in May 2016 to face four charges.

Mr Ford suffered a broken leg and other injuries when he was struck by a heavy hydraulic metal door on the set of the Millennium Falcon. The incident happened in June 2014 at Pinewood Studios.

A spokesman for HSE said:

“The charges relate to an incident during filming of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which left Harrison Ford with serious injuries after he was hit by a heavy hydraulic door.

“By law, employers must take reasonable steps to protect workers – this is as true on a film set as a factory floor. We have investigated thoroughly and believe that we have sufficient evidence to bring the case to court.”

Health and safety in the film, theatre and broadcasting industries

The HSE website http://www.hse.gov.uk/entertainment/theatre-tv/index.htm provides information on health and safety in the film, theatre and broadcasting industries.

It helps employers, the self employed and freelancers to recognise and comply with their duties under health and safety law.

Theatre – information to assist people who run theatres in controlling the risks to those working in the theatre or attending productions.

What you should know:

  • Health and safety law applies to theatres as it does to other businesses. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and related legislation places duties on employers, employees, the self-employed and those in control of premises.
  • The majority of injuries in the theatre industry are related to work at height and manual handling.

What you must do:

Work at height

There is a legal hierarchy for selecting equipment for work at height, based on using the safest possible method of work that can reasonably and practicably be used in the circumstances:

  • do not work at height – use auto focus or bounce focus lights, bring scenery items down to ground level for adjustment etc
  • work from an existing place of work – use gantries, bridges or catwalks, a trampoline system etc
  • work positioning – use fixed length lines to prevent falls, MEWPs etc
  • fall mitigation – use airbags, nets, inertia reel harnesses (which require a rescue plan)
  • systems of work – use ladders, Tallescopes, Zargees etc

Further information on working at height can be found in the ABTT Code of Practice for the selection and use of temporary access equipment for working at heights in theatres .

Manual handling

There is a large amount of manual handling involved in theatres, especially for travelling shows. Many loads are awkwardly shaped, heavy and often difficult to move in sometimes very confined spaces. This movement is often also done under time pressure. More than a third of the injuries reported annually to HSE are related to manual handling. These tend to be long-term injuries, which can have serious implications for those involved. Reducing the amount and severity of manual handling is a legal obligation. For more information, see: “Manual handling at work: A brief guide” (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg143.htm)

Legal duties

There are legal duties on:

  • employers
  • employees
  • the self-employed (freelance)
  • people in charge of premises

Employers

Employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees, while not exposing others to health and safety risks. As an employer, you must have systems in place to ensure that the risks presented by the work are assessed and either eliminated or controlled. There are a number of ways this can be done. Further help and information can be found in: “Health and safety made simple” (http://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/)

Self-employed (freelance)

Self-employed people have duties to ensure they work safely so that their activities do not create risk to themselves or others. Remember, ‘self- employed’ has a different meaning in health and safety matters to that used in tax matters. Both employers and the self-employed should make sure they know their legal status and obligations under health and safety law.

Person in charge of premises

Any person who allows people not employed by them to work in premises, such as a theatre, has duties to make sure:

  • the means of getting in and out are safe
  • all plant and equipment within the premises is safe and does not present a risk to health. This includes the electricity / gas and water supplies etc

Film, TV and broadcasting – information for those involved in film, TV and broadcasting to assist them in complying with their legal duties to eliminate or reduce the risk from their work.

What you should know:

  • Health and safety legislation applies to all work activities in the UK, whether conducted by UK nationals or foreigners, even if they are not being paid.
  • Legal duties under health and safety law cannot be delegated.

What you must do:

  • Define responsibilities and duties
  • Have a system for managing health and safety
  • Assess and manage risks
  • Regularly review the process and procedures for managing risk

Define responsibilities and duties

Employers are required to have a management system in place to control the risk to employees and others from their work. The industry uses large numbers of independent companies and freelancers and it is sometimes difficult to decide who the employer is. However, in the majority of cases, the employer will be the producer or production company. Help in deciding individual responsibilities can be found in: Health and safety in audio-visual production: Your legal duties .

System for managing health and safety

The size and complexity of management systems for health and safety depend on the size and complexity of the production. General advice on management systems can be found in: “Health and safety made simple” (http://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/) but – for more complex, hazardous or specialist productions – advice may have to be sourced from a competent outside specialist or consultant. Please note, an employer’s legal duty to manage health and safety cannot be delegated to a consultant or to anyone else.

Assess and manage risks

Risk assessment is a fundamental part of managing health and safety and helps you to identify hazards and control the risk they create for those involved in your production. The process requires you to:

  • take the time to systematically look at your activities
  • decide what hazards they present
  • assess the risk of people being exposed to these hazards
  • find ways to either eliminate or control them

For more information, see: “Risk management” (http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/index.htm)

Review

You must review and update both the risk assessments you have made and the controls you put in place as work progresses to make sure they are still working. After the production, it is good practice to review the whole system to see whether useful lessons could be learned for the future.

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/entertainment/theatre-tv/index.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help. We have experience of providing health and safety support and training within the film, tv and broadcasting industry.

DSEAR Regulations – manufacturing company and director fined for safety failings

A manufacturing company based in Shropshire and its director have been fined £13,666 and £4,000 respectively after an empty 45 gallon steel drum once containing flammable liquid caught fire and exploded when being cut in half.

Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court heard how an employee of the company had reported the incident, and indicated this particular method of work had been in operation for a significant period of time, and that previous incidents had occurred.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident immediately served a prohibition notice (PN) stopping the cutting of metal containers once containing highly flammable liquid or vapour with metal cutting angle grinders.

HSE inspector David Kivlin said after the hearing: “Carrying out this type of activity in this manner is a well-known risk and there has been many incidents resulting in serious injury and death.”

DSEAR Regulations

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) are concerned with preventing or limiting the harmful effects of fires, explosions and similar energy-releasing events and corrosion to metals. DSEAR are goal-setting regulations and are supported by an Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) that provides practical advice on how to comply with them.

They include the following:

  • DSEAR
  • ATEX and explosive atmospheres
  • Petroleum
  • Workplace process fire safety
  • Gases under pressure and substances corrosive to metals
  • Celluloid

DSEAR

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 are concerned with protection against risks from fire, explosion and similar events arising from dangerous substances used or present in the workplace. From June 2015 DSEAR also covers gases under pressure and substances that are corrosive to metals. This is to allow for changes in the EU Chemical Agents Directive the physical hazards aspects of which are enacted in Great Britain through DSEAR.

They set minimum requirements for the protection of workers from fire and explosion risks related to dangerous substances and potentially explosive atmospheres and from gases under pressure and substances corrosive to metals and require employers to control the risks to the safety of employees and others from these hazards.

Further information: DSEAR (http://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/dsear.htm)

ATEX and explosive atmospheres

Explosive atmospheres in the workplace can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts. Explosions can cause loss of life and serious injuries as well as significant damage.

DSEAR require that any workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur are classified into hazardous zones based on the risk of an explosion occurring, and protected from sources of ignition by selecting equipment and protective systems on the basis of the categories set out in the Equipment and Protective Systems for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (EPS)

Further information: ATEX (http://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/atex.htm)

Petroleum

Petrol is a dangerous substance and is a highly flammable liquid which can give off flammable vapour, even at very low temperatures. This means there is always a risk of fire and explosion when a source of ignition is present and when ignited it can quickly cause fire, injury and loss of life. Storing and dispensing petrol at a workplace is covered by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR), and other legislation specifically for controlling petrol storage and the suitable containers for storing petrol in.

Further information: Petroleum (http://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/petroleum.htm)

Work process fire safety

There are thousands of recorded fires in commercial premises every year. HSE’s main responsibility in this area is for the special precautions within a work process which are designed to prevent or reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out or (should a fire break out) reduce its intensity. HSE also has enforcement responsibility for process fire safety on construction sites, for nuclear premises and on ships under construction or repair.

These pages provide information about HSE’s role (click on the links):

Gases under pressure and substances corrosive to metals

Gases that are under pressure (eg gas in a cylinder) may present a risk of explosion if not correctly handled in the workplace. Substances that can corrode metals could cause structural damage reducing integrity of structures if not suitably contained. From June 2015, DSEAR places a formal requirement on employers to assess the risks for substances if classified for these properties and put in place suitable control and mitigation measures. It is anticipated that the practical impact, if any, of these changes will be minimal because the intrinsic hazards of the substances being used, or present, in workplaces is unchanged. The need to carry out a risk assessment and have in place procedures for the safe use of chemicals not currently covered by DSEAR is already required by the general requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Therefore, assuming businesses are already complying with these duties, they are unlikely to need to take any additional action.

Celluloid

Private individuals and voluntary groups may come into contact with old film in their home or at other non-workplace premises. Old cinematographic film and old photographic negatives (including X-ray film) may be made from cellulose nitrate.

Cellulose nitrate film can be very dangerous; it catches fire easily and once alight is difficult to put out.

The free HSE leaflet ‘The dangers of cellulose nitrate film’ gives more information: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg469.htm

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/dsear-regulations.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Asbestos health and safety – Company fined for safety failings when dealing with asbestos at a school

An Oxford based company has been fined £20,000 after disturbing asbestos insulation board (AIB) at a school.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court heard how the company was contracted to carry out roof refurbishment at a primary school in Northampton. During the course of this refurbishment company workers disturbed AIB in a small plant room.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the incident which occurred in November 2014 found failings in the company’s project management arrangements. They failed to monitor and identify asbestos materials during this specific roof refurbishment work at the school and ensure key personnel had suitable asbestos awareness training.

HSE inspector Sam Russell said after the hearing: “The serious health risks of asbestos which is a class one carcinogen are well-known and publicised. Any maintenance or construction work undertaken in buildings built before 2000 must consider and manage the risk of possible asbestos containing materials. It is important this material is considered at every stage of a construction project and failure to do so places workers, buildings occupants and the public at risk to possible exposure to asbestos fibres.”

Asbestos can be found in any building built before the year 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc) and causes around 5000 deaths every year.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

  • Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people killed on the road.
  • Around 20 tradesman die each week as a result of past exposure
  • However, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important that you protect yourself now.

Asbestos can cause the following fatal and serious diseases:

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.

Asbestos-related lung cancer

Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.

Pleural thickening

Pleural thickening is generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.

Where can you find asbestos?

Asbestos can be found in any industrial or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000. It is in many of the following common materials used in the building trade that you may come across during your work:

  • Loose asbestos in ceiling or floor cavity
  • Lagging
  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls and beams/columns
  • Asbestos insulating board
  • Floortiles, textiles and composites
  • Textured coatings
  • Asbestos cement products
  • Roofing felt
  • Rope seals and gaskets

What you need to know and do

For asbestos health and safety guidance visit the following HSE web pages (click on the links):

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/ or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence