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.

 

Passenger lifts and escalators – Bolton resident dies in lift shaft fall

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Bolton resident dies in lift shaft fall

A property management company has been fined after a resident of an apartment block in Bolton died after falling down a lift shaft.

Bolton Crown Court heard how the resident and a friend were trapped in a lift and unable to raise the alarm. They attempted a self-rescue by forcing the doors open and sliding out onto the floor below.

The resident slipped under the lift car and fell five stories down the lift shaft and died of multiple injuries. His friend escaped unhurt.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred in August 2014 found that the management company for the building failed to take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent the resident and his friend self-rescuing.

The management company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £45,000.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Sarah Taylor said: “Those who manage lifts have a responsibility to ensure they are properly maintained but if people are trapped they have a way to raise the alarm and are not in a position to try and rescue themselves.

“The problems with this lift were well known and if [the management company] had fulfilled their health and safety responsibilities [the resident] would probably be around to celebrate Christmas with his family this weekend.”

Passenger lifts and escalators

Lifts provided for use by workers in workplaces are subject to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER). However, in most cases lifting equipment which is not provided for, or used by, people at work (eg stair lifts in private dwellings and platform lifts in shops used for customer access) will not be subject to either LOLER or PUWER. But businesses providing this equipment will have responsibilities for its safety (it will require routine maintenance and inspection).

LOLER does not apply to escalators or any travelators / moving walkways which transport people, even though they may ‘lift’ people from one level to another. Such equipment is covered by regulation 19 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations.

However, escalators and similar machines, platform and stair lifts, and all conventional passenger lifts must meet the requirements for safety and conformity of either the Machinery or Lift Directives in their design, construction and installation, when first brought into use. (Note: stair lifts, certain slow moving platform lifts (less that 0.15 m/s) and construction hoists come within scope of the Machinery Directive instead of the Lifts Directive).

Passenger lifts used by people at work

Passenger lifts and combined goods / passenger lifts in workplaces (eg offices and factories) which are primarily used by people at work, are subject to periodic thorough examination and inspection, as required by LOLER and PUWER. Guidance for lift owners and others responsible for the examination and testing of lifts is available in: Thorough examination and testing of lifts: Simple guidance for lift owners (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg339.htm)

Passenger lifts used by people who are not at work

LOLER (and PUWER) may not apply where a passenger lift is not used by people at work (eg in public areas of a shopping centre). However, if the lift is operated by – or to some extent under the control of – an employer or self-employed person in connection with their business, they still have some responsibility for the health and safety of people they don’t employ. This includes members of the public who use the lift and those people who may work on or inspect the lift.

Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act imposes these general responsibilities, so far as reasonably practicable. As the risks may be the same as when using lifts in connection with work, a similar regime of maintenance, inspection and examination to that required under LOLER and PUWER may be entirely ‘reasonably practicable’ in managing the risks. In any case, insurers may impose demands for similarly stringent levels of risk management to cover public liability.

Escalators and moving walkways

Guidelines for the safe operation of escalators and moving walks (walkways) have been prepared by the Safety Assessment Federation in consultation with HSE. This document provides considerable guidance on the duties and responsibilities of those who:

  • manufacture, supply and install escalators and moving walkways
  • design premises where they are to be installed
  • own or manage premises in which they are installed, and
  • inspect and examine escalators and moving walkways

Although not subject to LOLER, these detailed guidelines recommend thorough examination of escalators and moving walkways, normally at six-monthly intervals.

Stair lifts:

Where provided as work equipment for use by employees, stair lifts will be subject to the requirements of LOLER (thorough examination) and PUWER (maintenance and inspection). Where they are not, but are still provided in connection with an undertaking (eg in work environments where the public or visitors may use them), employers and the self-employed will have responsibilities for the safety of all users under Section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. These may be adequately discharged by undertaking maintenance, and inspection, and 6 monthly thorough examination, even though PUWER & LOLER may not apply to the equipment.

However, all new stair lifts (either when first placed on the market, or first brought into use), as machinery are subject to the Machinery Directive / Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008. They must be constructed to be safe, supplied with Instructions, a Declaration of Conformity and CE marking. Those stair lifts which involve a hazard of falling from a vertical height of 3m or more are subject to Annex IV (item 17) of the Machinery Directive (so subject to conformity assessment as required by Article 12 (3) or 12 (4) of 2006/42/EC).

More information on LOLER can be found on the LOLER FAQ page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/faq-lifting.htm

For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/passenger-lifts.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help. We carry out health and safety inspections (as well as fire/legionella risk assessments) of all types of residential and commercial properties and are happy to provide a no-obligation quotation on request.

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

 

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 11TH AUGUST 2016

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

General fire safety in construction – timber-frame firm fined for fire safety and traffic offences

A construction firm has been fined £100,000 for running an unsafe timber-frame construction site.

The HSE launched an investigation last month after making an unannounced visit to the site.

Fifty-four timber-frame houses were under construction, which carry a serious fire risk if not planned or managed properly, as the structures are made from wood. If a fire starts, the speed and intensity of fire spread can be extreme – putting workers and even members of the public at risk of harm.

HSE found that measures to prevent a fire starting and getting out of control had not been properly taken. All the houses were under construction at broadly the same stage with little fire protection, a lack of site management control, insufficient means to detect a fire and raise the alarm, poor control of ignition sources and a general lack of emergency planning. Workers were also at risk of being struck or crushed by construction vehicles on site.

Improvement Notices were served regarding fire and vehicle safety issues and these were complied with after two further inspection visits.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Liam Osborne said: “[the construction firm] had been given plenty of warnings about fire-safety and traffic risks in the recent past, including from HSE.

“Timber-frame houses are perfectly safe once they’re finished and protected, but when under construction they can be very dangerous. Stringent fire-safety standards need to be in place well before the build starts, and then maintained and monitored”.

General fire safety in construction – what you need to do

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) sets out the law on construction site general fire safety.

The FSO requires that a ‘responsible person’ must carry out, and keep up to date, a risk assessment and implement appropriate measures to minimise the risk to life and property from fire.

The responsible person will usually be the main or principal contractor in control of the site.

You should identify sources of fuel and ignition and establish general fire precautions including, means of escape, warning and fighting fire, based on your fire risk assessment.

In occupied buildings such as offices, make sure the work does not interfere with existing escape routes from the building, or any fire separation, alarms, dry risers, or sprinkler systems.

Key issues are:

  • Risk assessment
  • Means of escape
  • Means of giving warning
  • Means of fighting fire

Construction of timber frame buildings will require significant additional measures – please refer to the specific guidance listed.

What you need to know

Each year there a number of serious fires on construction sites and buildings undergoing refurbishment.

Risk assessment

In most cases, conducting a risk assessment will be a relatively straightforward and simple task that may be carried out by the responsible person, or a person they nominate, such as a consultant.

There are five steps in carrying out a fire risk assessment:

  1. Identify hazards: consider how a fire could start and what could burn;
  2. People at risk: employees, contractors, visitors and anyone who is vulnerable, eg disabled;
  3. Evaluation and action: consider the hazards and people identified in 1 and 2 and act to remove and reduce risk to protect people and premises;
  4. Record, plan and train: keep a record of the risks and action taken. Make a clear plan for fire safety and ensure that people understand what they need to do in the event of a fire; and
  5. Review: your assessment regularly and check it takes account of any changes on site.

Means of escape

Key aspects to providing safe means of escape on construction sites include:

  • Routes: your risk assessment should determine the escape routes required, which must be kept available and unobstructed;
  • Alternatives:well-separated alternative ways to ground level should be provided where possible;
  • Protection: routes can be protected by installing permanent fire separation and fire doors as soon as possible;
  • Assembly: make sure escape routes give access to a safe place where people can assemble and be accounted for. On a small site the pavement outside may be adequate; and
  • Signs: will be needed if people are not familiar with the escape routes. Lighting should be provided for enclosed escape routes and emergency lighting may be required.

Means of giving warning

Set up a system to alert people on site. This may be temporary or permanent mains operated fire alarm (tested regularly), a klaxon, an air horn or a whistle, depending on the size and complexity of the site.

The warning needs to be distinctive, audible above other noise and recognisable by everyone.

Means of fighting fire

Fire extinguishers should be located at identified fire points around the site. The extinguishers should be appropriate to the nature of the potential fire:

  • wood, paper and cloth – water extinguisher;
  • flammable liquids – dry powder or foam extinguisher;
  • electrical – carbon dioxide (C02) extinguisher.

Nominated people should be trained in how to use extinguishers.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/generalfire.htm 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