COVID 19 – Maintaining Essential Property Compliance Services

At this time, it is vital that essential property compliance continues. Listed below are specific areas of focus, together with additional ways that we can help and support your business during this challenging period.

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Fire Safety Bill

The Home Office has introduced a new bill to improve fire safety in buildings in England and Wales.

The proposed Fire Safety Bill builds on action already taken to ensure that people feel safe in their homes, and a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire never happens again.

The bill will amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 to clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire for:

  • the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows
  • entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts

 

This clarification will empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.

The bill will provide a foundation for secondary legislation to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report, which stated that building owners and managers of high-rise and multi-occupied residential buildings should be responsible for a number of areas including:

  • regular inspections of lifts and the reporting of results to the local fire and rescue services
  • ensuring evacuation plans are reviewed and regularly updated and personal evacuation plans are in place for residents whose ability to evacuate may be compromised
  • ensuring fire safety instructions are provided to residents in a form that they can reasonably be expected to understand
  • ensuring individual flat entrance doors, where the external walls of the building have unsafe cladding, comply with current standards

 

The bill will also give the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the powers to amend the list of qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the Fire Safety Order by way of secondary legislation, enabling the government to respond quickly to developments in the design and construction of buildings.

Alongside today’s bill, a number of actions are being taken across government to improve building and fire safety including:

  • the announcement by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on 20 January 2020 of a new Building Safety Regulator
  • introduction of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety Bill, which will provide clearer accountability and stronger duties on those responsible for high rise buildings
  • £1 billion of grant funding to tackle unsafe cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres in both the private and social sectors
  • a new Building Safety Bill to bring about further changes to building safety
  • the relaunch of the government’s Fire Kills campaign

 

To accompany the introduction of the bill, the Home Office is also announcing today the publication of the summary of responses received to the Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO) call for evidence.

The call for evidence invited views on the application of the FSO and sought to identify any changes that might be needed and how they could be best achieved.

While respondents identified some areas where the FSO could be amended to provide greater clarity, most respondents agreed that the scope and objectives of the FSO remain appropriate for all regulated premises, that it should retain its focus on protecting lives over property, and that it should continue to provide a framework for a risk-based and proportionate approach to regulating fire safety. A consultation will be held later in the year on proposals and next steps.

Stay safe, stay aware

We are preparing regular news updates for Property Management clients in reference to the current COVID-19 outbreak. It is important to keep abreast of fast changing events. Please download our new app, Qcom Property Management in order to be kept aware of relevant information during this uncertain time.

To access the app you can either

 

Advice for Legionella Control During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Advice for Legionella Control During the COVID-19 Outbreak

During the current coronavirus pandemic focus has rightly been on the safety and well being of staff members and the general public with regard to tackling the spread of the virus and it becomes easy to lose focus on our general day to day priorities. However, as our work practices, movements and behaviour changes this can have a significant impact on aspects of the safety of our properties and this includes the risk associated with legionella bacteria. Health and safety law continues to apply and Dutyolders maintain a legal obligation to protect those in and around their properties from exposure to legionella bacteria. 

While controls in place may need to be adapted to changing circumstances, Dutyholders must still be able to demonstrate control of risk to a reasonably practicable level.

Legionella bacteria can grow and colonise water systems at temperatures between 20°C and 45°C, where a suitable nutrient source is available, and where turnover of water is low. As businesses increasingly move to a homeworking model during the coronavirus pandemic the demand for water in many commercial buildings will be significantly reduced. As demand is reduced the risk of low turnover and stagnation increases. With lower turnover we can also see increases in water temperatures as pipes warm to ambient levels. This risk can be further increased as the availability of maintenance staff and engineers is reduced through illness, isolation or travel restrictions.

Legionellosis (illness caused by legionella bacteria, including Legionnaires’ disease) is caused by inhalation of airborne water droplets containing high numbers of legionella bacteria. Those with a weakened immune system and other underlying illnesses hold a higher susceptibility to legionellosis. As the coronavirus pandemic escalates it is foreseeable that the number of individuals within society with a weakened immune system who are therefore susceptible to legionellosis will increase significantly. This is of particular concern in healthcare settings.

 

Hot and cold water systems

The main increased risk to hot and cold water systems caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is associated with the reduction in demand for water as occupants stay away and work from home. Water usage should be monitored during this period and the volume of stored water in cold water storage tanks should be reduced where possible to ensure complete daily turnover is maintained. Weekly flushing regimes must be reviewed to ensure that all water services which receive infrequent use are included. For many buildings this may include most facilities.  

 

It is important that routine maintenance tasks continue as advised by the ACoP L8 and HSG274 Part 2 and maintenance practices should be reviewed and contingency plans updated to ensure that maintenance can continue consistently in the event usual maintenance staff are unable to fulfil their duties. In multi-occupancy buildings tenants should be contacted to ensure they continue to fulfil their obligations with regard to legionella control including at least weekly flushing of all infrequently used water services. In the event that maintenance practices cannot be fulfilled as advised additional control measures should be introduced. These may include use of biocides and/or microbiological sampling.

Where a building, part of a building or a water system is taken out of use: In general, systems are normally left filled with water and not drained down. The systems should be recommissioned as though they were new (see further details below) before being returned to use.

 

Return to Normal Operation

If buildings or water systems are isolated during the COVID-19 outbreak, the length of time involved may not have been known at the outset and control measures might not have been considered.  Staff may not have been available to flush to simulate usage.  Assess the risk – it is unlikely that buildings can simply be reopened with no additional measures. 

Start-up procedures for systems may need to be reconsidered before buildings can be reopened.  Consideration should be given to water system cleaning and disinfection and/or controlled flushing to mitigate the risk from prolonged stagnation.  Sampling may be useful to demonstrate effectiveness of control measures.

 

Evaporative cooling systems (Cooling towers and evaporative condensers)

During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic evaporative cooling systems must continue to be maintained in line with the guidance set out in the ACoP L8 and HSG274 Part 1. These systems are likely to require intervention to remain safe such as replacing chemical stocks, adjusting dosing levels and calibration of sensors.  

Serious consideration should be given to whether the systems are presently needed for comfort cooling purposes. If not, they should be pre-emptively shut down and suitably decommissioned.

If an evaporative cooling system cannot continue to be maintained in a safe and consistent manner, the system should also be shut down and decommissioned. 

The system(s) should then be recommissioned (including cleaning and disinfection) once normal service has resumed, and they are again required.

 

At Quantum Compliance we continue to monitor government advice regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and we will update our guidance as necessary. During any periods of restricted travel we will remain contactable to advise and assist. 

If you require further information or advice regarding legionella control or have concerns specific to maintaining the risks associated with legionella bacteria during the coronavirus pandemic please contact our Principal Water Consultant, Tom de Ronde, tom.deronde@qcompliance.co.uk

 

 

Home-Based Health and Safety Awareness Training

At this time, more and more property management staff are working from home and we are currently having innovative discussions with clients in respect of identifying how to make this home working time as productive as possible.

One such idea was to run awareness training courses for home-based staff.

We are currently able to deliver Health and Safety Awareness Training Courses covering the following topics. (We are also able to deliver specific courses on request).

Course Index

  1. Asbestos Awareness
  2. Legionella Awareness
  3. Contractor Management
  4. Fire Warden / Fire Co-ordinator
  5. Manual Handling
  6. Site Safety Awareness
  7. Workstation / DSE Assessor

Each course would be delivered via Microsoft Teams, would last for two hours, and would typically comprise eight people.

Following each course, staff would receive a formal attendance Certificate for CPD recording.

Please let me know if you are interested in us running any of these courses for you.

Philip Jones CMIOSH

Technical Director   07973 735161

Asbestos Surveys – why wait?

Property Managers wishing to let out units within their managed offices, shopping centres and industrial/retail parks, are often unable to do so because up to date asbestos management survey reports are not available.  There is then an urgent need to complete these surveys in order to meet very tight deadlines for tenants to be secured.

This urgent need often holds up or even prevents units being let.  Furthermore, the late commissioning of asbestos management surveys may present even more challenges, particularly when asbestos containing materials are positively identified and remedial actions subsequently recommended.

So, our advice is to commission asbestos management surveys when the unit becomes vacant and not at the point when a solicitor, acting on behalf of a prospective tenant, requests it.

Quantum Compliance has the nationwide coverage to undertake all forms of asbestos surveying and asbestos project management.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any current or planned asbestos surveying needs.

Philip Jones CMIOSH

Technical Director   07973 735161

Qcom Property Compliance App Improvements

We’ve made some additions and improvements to our app, “Qcom Property Compliance app”

At Quantum we pride ourselves on providing pragmatic advice through clear innovative service. As part of this we produced an App that clearly detailed current health and safety, fire safety, asbestos and legionella advice across residential and commercial properties.

Our goal is to provide you with a pocket guide for instant access, to understand what you need to do to ensure your property remains compliant.

To access our new and improved app you can either

 

   

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Preventing The Spread Of Infection

As the virus is now clearly spreading, the government is contingency planning and also focussing its advice on preventing the spread of infection.  This advice has been detailed below.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Public Health England (PHE) recommends that the following general cold and flu precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

If you are worried about symptoms, call NHS 111. Do not go directly to your GP or other healthcare environment.

Face masks for the general public are not recommended to protect from infection, as there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments.

People who have returned from Hubei Province, including Wuhan, in the last 14 days should self-isolate whether they have symptoms or not. This includes avoiding attending an education setting or work until 14 days after they leave Hubei Province.

People who have returned from Hubei Province, including Wuhan, in the last 14 days should avoid attending work. They should call NHS 111 for advice and self-isolate.

Advice is in place which is being updated on an ongoing basis.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-specified-countries-and-areas/covid-19-specified-countries-and-areas-with-implications-for-returning-travellers-or-visitors-arriving-in-the-uk

With regards to travel information to China or other countries for individuals working in the UK, we recommend following the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) country advice pages. At present, FCO advises against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing novel COVID-19 outbreak.  The FCO also advises against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao).