Fire Safety audits have reduced by 14% in the past 12 months

The Operational Statistics Bulletin for the Fire and Rescue Services in England for 2013-14 has been  published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The bulletin focuses on Personnel, Health and Safety, Fire Safety and Prevention activities.  The main findings include:

  • Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) carried out 67,266 audits in 2013-14, spending 309,221 personnel hours.
  • Audits identifying an unsatisfactory level of compliance led to 18,733 informal notifications, 2,059 enforcement notices, 392 prohibition notices, 44 alteration notices and 71 prosecutions under article 32 (failure to comply with the Order).
  • FRAs are focusing their audit activities so that premises which are considered to represent the highest risks (as identified by the Fire Service Emergency Cover toolkit) are more likely to be audited. The highest proportions were care homes (27% were audited during 2013-14), followed by hostels (22%) and hospitals and hotels (both 15%).
  • The articles of the Fire Safety Order where premises were mostly non-compliant were: article 9 (Risk assessment), 14 (Emergency routes and exits) and 17 (Maintenance).

FIA Chief Executive Officer Graham Ellicott commented:

“Over the last two years, the number of personnel employed by the Fire and Rescue Services in England has fallen by approximately 7% and the knock on of this has, in part, been a 14% drop in the number of fire safety audits, with the largest drop coming in Non-Sleeping Risk Premises.  In contrast, fire safety audits for Sleeping Risk Premises have fallen by 5%. Overall, 64% of fire safety audits were satisfactory in 2013/2014, with the highest satisfactory percentage (77%) being for Purpose Built Flats, whereas the lowest satisfactory percentage (47%) was in Houses of Multiple Occupation.”

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

 

Fines for breaching Gas Safety regulations

Magistrates heard how a young family was left in potential danger for nearly four years after their landlord repeatedly failed to check the gas appliances in a property he rented to them.  The landlord from Slough was fined £9,000 with costs totaling almost £4,000 after he failed to respond to The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local council notices.

Mohammed Nawaz, 25, was prosecuted for two offences of breaching gas safety regulations and a further offence of failing to comply with an enforcement notice after an HSE investigation.

HSE told Slough Magistrates’ Court on 21 August that its investigation revealed that the gas appliances had not been maintained and checked so the family could be provided with a Landlord’s gas safety record for the property.  Mr Nawaz had a legal duty to ensure the gas appliances in any properties he rented were checked every 12 months by a competent gas engineer. However, between June 2010 and February 2014, no such checks were carried out and no record was ever provided to the tenants at any point in four years’ tenancy.

When a Gas Safe Register engineer visited the property, a boiler was classed as ‘at risk’ because of an inadequate seal around the flue and incorrectly-sized gas supply pipes to the boiler.

Despite warnings and an enforcement notice from HSE, plus an abatement notice from the local council requiring him to comply with the law, Mr Nawaz failed to respond, continuing to expose the family to potential health risks.  Mohammed Nawaz, of Bath Road, Slough, Berkshire, was fined a total of £9,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £3,941 after admitting two breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations and a further charge of non-compliance with a HSE improvement notice.

After the case, HSE inspector Karen Morris said:

“Mohammed Nawaz failed to take seriously his duties and responsibilities as a landlord and the result was to put a family – including two children – at risk of significant harm.  “There is no excuse for landlords failing to ensure that gas appliances in rented properties are properly maintained and subject to annual safety checks. These are simple and inexpensive measures, but they are vital for the safety of the people living in the premises.

“HSE takes gas safety issues very seriously and we will take enforcement action when necessary.”

Russell Kramer, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, commented:

“When it comes to rented property, it is important that landlords know their duties and tenants know their rights. A landlord must be able to provide a gas safety record for the property, showing that the gas appliances have been safety-checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer in the last 12 months.  “Tenants can also sign up to a free reminder service at staygassafe.co.uk to make sure their landlord or managing agent is carrying out their duties of getting an annual gas safety check.”

Health and Safety failing as child’s head trapped in electric gates

Dudley Magistrates’ Court today (10 July) heard that on 25 September 2012, an eight-year-old boy was injured when his head became trapped between the edge of the closing gate and the gate post.   A Leicester company, Access Control Solutions (UK) Ltd, has been prosecuted for failing to install adequate guarding on an electric gate that trapped a young child at a primary school in Stourbridge.  The youngster suffered significant bruising to the right side of his head and ear.

The child’s father witnessed the incident and tried desperately to hold the gate to stop it closing further and managed to pulled it open enough to release his son’s head.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the entrance gate at Pedmore Primary School had been automated by Access Control Solutions (UK) Ltd but the company had failed to fit suitable guarding.  The company had identified the need for the guarding but not fitted it because the gate, which had been manufactured by a different company, was not the exact style expected and the guarding would not fit.

Access Control Solutions (UK) Ltd, of Boston Road, Leicester, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 18 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and was fined £3,300 with £773 costs.

Inspector Sarah Palfreyman said:

“This was an extremely traumatic event for the boy and his father.  Fortunately, the youngster was back at school a couple of days later and he has not suffered any long term effects. However, it could have been a different story had he been trapped by a different part of his head, or had it happened to a younger child.

“The incident was entirely preventable. Access Control Solutions identified the need for the guard in their own job specification but when the gate arrived, it was not the type expected the guard did not fit. At this point they should have either come up with an alternative or postponed the job until the problem was rectified, especially as they were fully aware that the entrance would be used by a particularly vulnerable group – young children.

“People getting trapped a well-known risk in the industry and HSE has produced safety notes on the subject due to a number of fatalities involving children in recent years. I would encourage all suppliers and installers of electric gates to read it.”

The boy’s father said:

“I had gone to collect him from the after school activity club and he ran towards the gate, which was still open. I told him to stop and wait for me and as he did I saw the gate was closing and was touching his shoulders.  Realising the danger I leapt to the gate but by then it was on his head and he was screaming.

“I was pulling it with all my strength. It nearly beat me but managed to pull it enough to get his head out.
“It shook the whole family. My son talks about it now and again. He thinks it was his fault, that he did something wrong. That upsets me as much as the incident itself.”

Guidance of the installation of electrically powered gates and the risks to pedestrians is available on the HSE website

We can provide no obligation consultations regarding your Health ans Safety requirements.  Please contact Quantum Compliance with any queries.

Fines after toddler fall from window

Aberdeenshire hotel owners were said to have been devastated after a 15-month-old girl fell from an unsecured window.  A £10,000 fine was issued to Meldrum House Estates for safety failings at Aberdeen Sheriff Court following the incident in April 2012.

The one-year-old fell from the first floor of converted stables.  Her parents were getting ready for a wedding while the child moved around the room. It appeared that somehow she opened a window, leaned back and fell out.

Her parents ran out to find her conscious but in shock and her lips were turning blue.  After being taken to hospital, her only visible injuries were a bump on the back of the head and redness on her arm.

Chief executive of Meldrum House Estates, Andy Burgess, said he thought the company had done everything possible during a £2.5m refurbishment to ensure safety.  The court heard that the hotel had a good health and safety record and had taken responsibility for the accident at an early stage.

Sheriff Annella Cowan said: “The risk of such an accident happening was low. This was an isolated incident.”

 

Property Management Guidance

 

 

September 2014 NEWSLETTER

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Property Management Guidance

Essential health and safety guidance for the Facility Management industry.

This essential guidance for facilities managers provides a simple step-by-step approach to the management of health and safety of contractors which is not covered by the existing guidance on the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007.

This information coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Section 3 of the Act which specifically requires employers to ensure the health and safety of not only their own employees but also that of others on site who are not employees.

 

Property maintenance firm fined

After ignoring safety concerns a property maintenance firm has appeared in court.

High Peak Remedial Services Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  An HSE inspector issued an Improvement Notice during a routine visit to the Park Road workshop.

High Peak Remedial Services Ltd, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,662 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

 

Workplace deaths

According to new figures from the Health and Safety Executive, nationally, the number of people who lose their lives at work has dropped sharply by 85 per cent over the past 40 years.  This is down from more than 650 every year in 1974 to a record low of 133 last year.

The number of injuries at work has also reduced considerably by 77 per cent over the same time period, from 336,701 to 78,222.  These statistics illustrate the impact of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which came into being in 1974.

In the West Midlands during 2012-2013, there were 14 fatal work place incidents.  Further statistics and information available in our full article. Please read more.

Myth-busting by the HSE

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v’s reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.

Phil Jones

Recycling Centre banned enquirer from using a garden fork

Refusal by supervisor to allow a member of the public to use a garden fork to help transfer thorny garden waste from his trailer to the green waste compactor at the local household waste recycling centre.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

Primary school not allowed ladders

Primary school not allowed ladders due to health and safety. Therefore staff use chairs to reach up when ‘working at heights’.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

Our compliance advice helps clients manage their risk exposures both nationally and internationally.

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Legal Ignorance

Following recent cases brought before the legal process in the UK, it would appear that a number of people in a position of authority.are either not aware of what their legal responsibilities are, or they are just treating them with a flagrant disregard.

This is often done in the hopes that they will not be caught or, if they are, they will be treated lightly by the judicial system.  As with many other breaches of legal responsibilities, it is done in an attempt to save money.

So, why do these cases come before the courts time and again?

For Full article please READ MORE.

 

Hear from our Safety expert Chris Fitzgerald.

He talks legal compliance and the importance of managing it.

Read his comments HERE

Case study of the month

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Fire Guidance

Changes to fire legislation, standards and brigade procedures

The Fire Industry Association (FIA) has issued some guidance for FMs on fire safety obligations, covering relevant legislation and standards.
This article looks at recent changes to some of the fire protection standards that an FM will come across and at changes to how the Fire & Rescue Services are attending premises.

The standards related to fire alarm systems and fire extinguishers have recently been amended or revised
For fire extinguishers, BS 5306-8 ‘Fire extinguishing installations and equipment on premises Part 8: Selection and positioning of portable fire extinguishers – Code of practice’ has been revised.

A significant change is that in the past, when carrying out the annual service of fire extinguishers, ‘knowledgeable’ service technicians would have advised the customer of the changes and where the premises current coverage differs from that in BS 5306-8. There is now a link between BS 5306-3 the service standard and BS 5306-8 that make this check part of the annual service visit.  In future, after this review, there should be a discussion on how to bring the premises in line with the new recommendations.

There is now guidance on fire risk and fire hazard which aligns with current risk assessment standards.  As such, there is a stronger link between your risk assessment and provision of extinguishers. In addition there is new guidance on environmental considerations within the premises where consideration should be given to the impact of the fire extinguishing media on the processes within the building.

When sections of a building are unoccupied, the standard recommends are that there should be consideration of extinguishers in those areas in order to protect the means of escape if it’s through those areas.  These standard have also ensured that the distances that you have to travel before you find an extinguisher are shorter.

Powder extinguishers
Historically ABC powder was considered the go-to general purpose extinguisher, specified for use everywhere.  New guidance now requires that for enclosed areas there should be a risk assessment done to consider the impact on visibility and health when using powder extinguishers.

Numbers
The guidance has been clarified for Class A extinguishers.  It is recommended that two Class A extinguishers are on each floor.

Cooking oils
New standards confirm that cooking oils are a class on their own.  If you have catering facilities and use cooking oil then a Class F extinguisher should be recommended.

In line with the changing environmental requirements the Code of Practice is aiming to be ‘future proof’.  If you manage facilities that use, store or dispense fuels you will know that there is a move towards the use of biofuels.  The increasing amount of ethanol in fuel will require specific alcohol resistance foams (AR Foam).  BS 5306-8 recognises this and recommends that AR foam is used if the amount of ethanol in the fuel goes above 10%.

Fire alarms
‘the bible’ of the fire alarm industry, BS 5839-1, has been revised and was published in May 2014. Whilst it wasn’t a major revision, the changes will have an impact on the facilities you manage. The changes were made for two main reasons:

  • to take into account the findings of the Rose Park care home fire
  • as a result of research on high ceiling fire detection.

There were also some small updates to legislation and standards referred to in the code.

The first noticeable change is in the title which has been adapted to make it clear that BS 5839-1 is for non-domestic properties (domestic properties are covered by BS 5839-6).

The standard now recommends that where occupants of a building are going to need assistance from staff to evacuate the building (e.g. in residential care homes and hospitals) the fire detection and fire alarm system should be addressable if the facility has the capacity to sleep more than ten people.  This is similar to a conventional system except that the control panel can determine exactly which detector or call point has initiated the alarm.

Other changes include:

  • recommendations that residential care homes should have automatic transmission of alarm signals to an alarm receiving centre
  • if a staff alarm in a care home is present, there should not be any delay in summoning of the Fire & Rescue Service when the fire alarm system operates, but there may be a delay in the general alarm signal, provided all staff are made aware of the fire alarm signal
  • there should also be no filtering of alarms from care homes, this is different from all other facilities where the code recommends that where an investigation period is employed, the Fire & Rescue Service ought not to be called until the outcome of the investigation is known (except in residential care homes where it is necessary to summon the Fire & Rescue Service as soon as the fire alarm system operates).

Zone plans
The pictorial view of your fire alarm system is important because this is what the Fire & Rescue Service will look for when they arrive at your premises to find out where the fire is.  BS 5839-1 now reinforces the recommendation to have one.  The FM is responsible for ensuring that the zone plan is kept up to date, especially if it references areas by name, such as shops etc.

Warehouses
Work done by FIA and the Building Research Establishment ( BRE ) of high ceiling detection has been incorporated into the code so now you can use aspirating detection systems at similar heights to beam detection thus widening your choice of detection type.
Competence

The FIA strongly recommends that fire protection systems be properly maintained by personnel that can prove their competence. The new standards make that link and the FIA recommends that the best way to prove competence is through membership of a scheme such as the ‘Portable Fire Extinguisher Service Technicians Scheme’ from BAFE or BAFE SP203/ LPCB ‘s LPS1014 for fire alarms. Similarly there are competence schemes for fire risk assessors and passive fire protection systems that can be called upon by facilities managers.

The FIA believes that building owners should consider the use of more fire protection in buildings that are critical to the community.  The FIA feels that the value of keeping these buildings operational far outweighs the small additional cost of an extra level of fire protection. Extra fire protection could mean the difference between these buildings surviving or not in the event of a fire.

FRS’s attendance policy
FMs should be aware of the local Fire & Rescue Service’s attendance policy for automatic fire alarm signals. In many cases Fire & Rescue Services will not attend an unconfirmed signal from a commercial building.
A confirmed signal is where a person has seen evidence of a fire and relayed that information to the alarm receiving centre who in turn will call the relevant Fire & Rescue Service and confirm that there is an actual fire. If you’re not aware of the attendance policy of your local fire and rescue service then you should go their website and look for the details.
There are a number of variations on attendance policies and these include whether the building is managed or not, whether there is a sleeping risk, the time of day and the day of the week. So you need to read the attendance policy carefully to see whether when the automatic fire alarm goes off you will receive a visit from the big red fire engines!

Some Fire & Rescue Services are now considering charging for attendance at false alarms and given these austere times this is more likely to be the case in future. The FIA has a dedicated website with regard to the management of false alarms and this can be found here.

 

 

 

Fire Door Safety Week

Fire door safety week takes place on 15-21 September 2014.  It endeavors to draw attention to the following;

  • Raising awareness of the critical role of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance.
  • Encouraging building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and encouraging them to report those that are not satisfactory.
  • Linking together the initiatives of many organisations with common interests in the fire door and passive fire protection industries.
  • Engaging and educating people, helping the whole building industry and every property owner to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors.

Supported by a wide range of organisations, Fire door safety week is the brainchild of the BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme.

The roles of fire doors

  • Fire doors save lives and property,
  • They are part of a building’s passive fire protection system and are fundamental to most fire strategies for buildings.
  • They provide critical protection within a building such as escape routes (stairs and corridors) and places of relative safety, and in separating different fire hazards in a building.

 

Important information about fire doors
Fire doors are a vitally important feature, they;

  • Save lives when they work correctly
  • Must be tested and third-party certificated to BS 476 Part 22 or BS EN 1634 Part 1
  • Must be fitted with the correct and compatible components suited to the door leaf and its purpose
  • Like any fire safety device, should be installed and maintained by competent people
  • A fire door’s performance should never be compromised
  • Require correct glazing and ironmongery when used
  • Should not be altering or adapted on site
  • Should always use the correct frames
  • Should always use intumescent seals
  • Should be correctly installed and maintained
  • Should never be propped open

 

Dos and don’ts to stay safe

Do

  • Specify and use third-party certificated fire doors and components
  • Buy fire doors, frames and components from certificated companies
  • Check the certificate matches the door
  • Make sure you have the correct certification for the door’s intended use
  • Install and maintain fire doors using competent personnel
  • Make sure that ironmongery components are CE marked.

Don’t

  • Fit a fire door like any other door – it’s not, it’s an engineered safety device
  • Cut vision panels and other holes on site
  • Patch up a fire door
  • Take risks by reducing the specification
  • Disconnect a fire door closer
  • Prop or wedge open a fire door.

Did you know

  • About 3 million new fire doors are bought and installed every year in the UK.
  • The vast majority of fire doors are made from timber.
  • In a survey among fire risk assessors, 80% of escape routes were obstructed, 65% of fire doors were wedged open, 85% had door closers disconnected.
  • Leaving fire doors wedged or propped open disregards the safety of others. It is also against the law.
  • In a recent review of 100 cases prosecuted under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, fire doors were the second highest reason for prosecutions.
  • All fire doors should be fitted with intumescent seals – they expand 5-10 times their original size, sealing the gaps around the perimeter of the door and holding the door construction firmly in place.
  • Some fire doors may also need smoke seals and/or acoustic seals.
  • Essential ironmongery for fire doors must be CE marked even though fire doors themselves don’t need to be (yet).

 

To speak with our Fire Safety expert please contact us.