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 – 21ST JANUARY 2016

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Glasgow hosts first event on the health and safety system strategy for Great Britain roadshow

Sensible health and safety management in schools – School fined after pupil paralysed when swing collapsed

Noise induced hearing loss – key speakers announced for new hearing conference

Introduction

In our first update this year, we shared the news that leading industry figures and other key influencers are being urged to have a say in shaping the future strategy for Great Britain’s health and safety system. This week, Glasgow hosted the first of seven roadshow events taking place over the next fortnight in which people and organisations are being asked to contribute ideas on what will help the countries and regions of Great Britain ‘work well’.

With so many schools opting to convert to academy status, we looked at sensible health and safety management in education last week, particularly as a school had recently been in court over a science experiment injury. Less than a week later, the HSE has revealed how yet another school has been fined, after a pupil was paralysed when a swing collapsed. So this week, we’re reminding our readers of the HSE webpages providing guidance on the subject.

Last year, an estimated 15,000 people in employment suffered from noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) caused or made worse by work (based on data from the Labour Force Survey – averaged over 2011/12, 2013/14 and 2014/15). This equates to a rate of 48 cases per 100,000 people employed in the last 12 months. This March in Manchester, ListenUP! is bringing together international specialists in the field of hearing conservation to propose a fresh approach to this escalating problem. We close this week’s update with details of how to register for the conference, and also HSE guidance on the subject.

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

Glasgow hosts first event on the health and safety system strategy for Great Britain roadshow – 18 January 2016

Leaders of Scottish business and supporting organisations are meeting today in Glasgow to discuss the development of Britain’s new strategy for workplace health and safety.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), wants leading industry figures and key influencers to have a say in shaping the future strategy for Great Britain’s health and safety system, and is going on the road to hear those views. The roadshow will travel to six other cities over the next fortnight, finishing in London on 2 February.

Glasgow was chosen to host the first roadshow in which people and organisations are being asked to contribute ideas on what will help the countries and regions of Great Britain ‘work well’.

The roadshow coincides with the development of a new action plan by the Partnership on Health and Safety in Scotland (PHASS) to help strengthen the pattern of ownership and collective effort in continuing to improve health and safety in Scotland.

Despite being one of the safest places in the world to work, every year in Scotland there are an estimated 42,000 new incidences and rates of self-reported illness caused or made worse by a current or most recent job.

HSE, the independent regulator for workplace safety and health, which is organising the roadshows recently published the six themes the five-year strategy will cover and a wide range of influencers including employers, workers, local and central government, unions and other regulators are being consulted on their views.

There are three overarching aspects the new strategy will tackle and the conversations will seek to address;

  • Taking collective ownership and looking at personal contributions to health and safety that do not cause unnecessary cost or inefficiency to people or business.
  • Over 23 million working days are lost each year through work-related ill-health and the costs to Britain are estimated at over £9.4bn per year.
  • Boosting Britain’s businesses. Ensuring SMEs in particular get the right information, at the right time, and take the right action easily.

HSE will tell the collected audience that it has done much to banish the myth that health and safety equates to bureaucracy and actually benefits business in terms of productivity, innovation and growth. But at the roadshows it will ask how this work can be continued into the next five years.

A multi-channel awareness campaign is underway on social, online and print media and the hashtag #HelpGBWorkWell is inviting people from all over Britain to join the conversation.

Head of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) in Scotland, Karen McDonnell, who will address today’s event said: “Partnership working is vital to the future success of the health and safety system in Great Britain, and that is why this roadshow is so promising.

“Multi-disciplinary partnership working has been fundamental to bringing together Scotland’s business and health and safety networks and this engagement on the future system is the next step forward.

“I understand the future of the health and safety system in Great Britain belongs, not only to HSE, but, to everyone, and that’s why I have agreed to speak at this event that encourages people to talk and exchange views in order to gain a broader ownership of the system as we know it.”

Dame Judith Hackitt DBE, Chair of HSE said: “Scotland enjoys the same record on work-related safety and health as GB as a whole which is undoubtedly one of the best in the world.

“Ensuring Britain continues to work well is the challenge, which is why we are asking workers and employers to give us their ideas on the country’s health and safety strategy, a strategy for all, shaped by all.”

Sensible health and safety management in schools – school fined after pupil paralysed when swing collapsed

A Hertfordshire school has been fined a total of £50,000 plus £90,693 costs for safety failings after a pupil suffered permanent paralysis when a swing collapsed.

St Albans Magistrates’ Court heard how on September 2011 a 13-year-old pupil at the school was playing on a wooden swing in an adventure playground.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the swing had collapsed because the supporting timbers had rotted. The heavy wooden cross beam of the swing fell onto the pupil’s head and neck causing spinal injuries that resulted in permanent paralysis.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Alison Ashworth said:

“This case shows how important it is that schools and other providers of play equipment maintain them in a safe condition. This tragic accident could have been avoided had the school implemented the findings of its own risk assessment.”

Sensible health and safety management in schools

A sensible approach to health and safety in schools means focusing on how the real risks are managed. The guidance on this series of webpages (http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/sensible-leadership/) will help those responsible for managing health and safety in schools to strike the right balance, so that the real risks are managed and learning opportunities are experienced to the full. Sensible health and safety management should be straightforward, it’s just part of good school leadership.

If you need any assistance, we have been providing health and safety support and training to schools and colleges for a number of years now, and are happy to forward a no-obligation quotation on request. Contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Noise induced hearing loss – key speakers announced for new hearing conference

HSE’s Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) has announced the keynote speakers who will speak at ListenUP! – the first European Hearing Conservation Conference.

Taking place in Manchester, UK on 2 March 2016, ListenUP! will bring together international specialists in the field of hearing conservation to propose a fresh approach to the escalating problem of noise-induced hearing loss.

Speakers at the conference, which is the first of its kind in Europe, represent a broad range of disciplines. Those delivering keynote talks include:

  • Professor Andrew Curran, HSE’s Chief Scientific Advisor
  • Professor Bart Vinck, Head of the Department of Communication Pathology, University of Pretoria
  • Dr David Welch, Head of Section (hearing and hearing loss), University of Auckland, and
  • Chris Wood, Senior Research and Policy Officer for Action on Hearing Loss

Attendees will also benefit from presentations from other expert speakers including Peter Wilson, Director of the Industrial Noise and Vibration Centre; Fiona Carragher, Deputy Chief Scientific Officer for NHS England; Stephen Dance, Reader in Acoustics at London South Bank University and Mike Barraclough, Senior Risk Manager with QBE Insurance.

Disabling hearing loss currently affects more than 10 million people in the UK and by 2031 it is anticipated that 14.5 million people in the UK will suffer some degree of noise-induced hearing loss.

ListenUP! offers anyone actively involved or interested in hearing conservation the unique opportunity to obtain the very latest information, solutions and good practice to help tackle hearing loss. They will also be in at the start of this drive for change and can help to shape the future of a proposed European Hearing Conservation Association.

Online registration for ListenUP! is now open, but interest in this landmark conference is high so anyone interested in attending is advised to visit www.hsl.gov.uk/listenup/registration now to secure their place.

Noise at work – advice for employers (click on the links for more information)

Some 17,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or other ear conditions caused by excessive noise at work.

For more information, visit the HSE webpage http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/index.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