Company Update

Welcome to our latest new look edition of Connect, brought to you by William Martin Compliance – our newly unified brand, as a result of the recent integration of Quantum Compliance and William Martin Compliance Solutions.
Our partnership brings many benefits to our clients including enhanced leadership and support teams; an expanded team of technical experts; a broader range of products and services; and ongoing investment in our market leading Meridian software. In addition, being part of the wider Marlowe Group offers the added benefit and convenience for clients wishing to access end-to-end property management solutions as well as employee HR and wellbeing programmes.
I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on the last few months and not only commend the resilience and ‘can do’ attitude of our fantastic teams, that enabled us to continue to support our clients as seamlessly as possible throughout this Coronavirus pandemic, but also a sincere thank you to all of our clients for your support, flexibility and understanding throughout this period.

Best wishes,
Beatriz Shorrock, Managing Director

Draft Building Safety Bill – Further Guidance

Following the recent publication of the draft Building Safety Bill, we have set out further guidance on some of the key proposals to assist our clients in understanding the potential impacts.

The Building Safety Regulator

The Building Safety Regulator’s key duties will be to introduce a better safety system and impose sanctions and regulations to ensure this happens. There will be a stronger focus on building safety for developers and landlords, improving competence for those working in the built environment and improving building control standards.

Dutyholders

A dutyholder system will be implemented in every building, to ensure that the person creating building safety risk is responsible for managing it. The building cycle will be split into gateways, with different dutyholders for different gateways.

Each gateway will be assessed at handover by the Regulator, who can stop progress if safety standards are not met. The phases will be connected by a ‘golden thread of information’, including the original design and construction, as well as changes during the building’s lifecycle.

The dutyholder will become the Accountable Person when the building is occupied. This will usually be the building owner. Responsibilities include registering the building with the Regulator and securing a Building Safety Assurance Certificate before occupation.

Increased Sanctions

The Regulator will have powers to issue ‘stop notices’ on construction projects found to be in breach and ‘compliance notices’ compelling issues to be fixed by a set date.

They will also hold building control bodies to account and ban or remove them from the Inspector’s Register. If an offence is committed with the “consent or connivance” of a Director, that Director may be prosecuted. The time limit for prosecution will increase to 10 years.

Costs to Leaseholders

A “building safety charge” will be set up for leaseholders, separate to the service charge. Freeholders will hold this money in a separate account and only be allowed to pay for works with it. Leaseholders can refuse payments that are unreasonable or if there is no clear breakdown of costs. However, the charge must be paid within 28 days and will also cover new measures, e.g. paying for a Building Safety Manager and day-to-day management of buildings.

New Committees

The Building Regulations Advisory Committee will provide evidence-based guidance on new issues that emerge in the built environment.

The Competence Committee will aim to overcome the fragmented and inconsistent competence of workers and managers that currently exists in the building safety sector.

A residents’ panel will be established, so they have a voice in the changes being made to building safety guidance. The Regulator will consult the panel on its strategic plan and changes that may affect their rights and obligations.

New Homes Ombudsman

The New Homes Ombudsman will enable new homeowners to make complaints about the quality of construction and have them investigated. All developers will be required to join the scheme and the Ombudsman will work with them to establish a code of practice.

What does this mean for our clients?

The key proposals of the Building Safety Bill will be far-reaching and will place additional requirements on residential property managers. There will be a long overdue focus on competence, meaning that everyone working in fire safety design and management will need to possess the correct level of experience, qualifications and training.

 

Retailer Fined For ‘Slippery Floor’ After Pensioner Broke Hip

A major UK retailer was fined over £700,000 following an incident in which a pensioner slipped on pooling water and broke his hip.

There was a leak from store refrigeration equipment which should have drained away but did not, due to blocked floor drains.

Over an extended period, the retailer failed either to deal with the blockage or with the pooling water. Management failed to implement any options to mitigate the risk, e.g. turning off refrigeration units, closing the affected aisles or using barriers to restrict access. Staff had complained and had been reduced to putting down flattened cardboard to try to soak up the leaks.

The retailer was found culpable. Maintenance issues repeatedly reported should have been identified and addressed and there was a high likelihood of people slipping and sustaining a material level of injury.

Our Comment – The need for controlling slips, trips and falls at same level.

Slips and trips account for around half of all reported injuries to members of the public in workplaces where there is public access. In this particular case, the issue was not only the leak and the failure to rectify it over a long period of time, but also that actions to clear up pooling water were ineffective. This failure was not just at local level, but also with area management level, as the problem had been repeatedly reported.

Suitable measures for resolving the problem should have been put in place, including identifying the leak and isolating the pooling water until it was resolved, turning off the refrigeration system and repairing the blocked drain.

 

Schoolgirl, 8, Hurt by Manual Sliding Gate

Source: IOSH Magazine

The HSE has prosecuted a Surrey firm after a child sustained multiple fractures to her pelvis and internal injuries when a 5m-long gate fell on her.

The eight-year-old was leaving school when the manual sliding gate became disengaged from its rollers and crushed her.

An HSE investigation found that the mechanism provided to prevent the sliding gate from overrunning and falling over as it was opened (a small stop welded to its guiding rail) was ‘an accident waiting to happen’. During the incident, the gate was opened ‘robustly’, and its momentum caused it to ‘ride over’ the stop. With nothing to hold it in position, it fell on the girl.

Metalart Fabrication admitted breaching section 6(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, which puts a duty on any person who designs, manufactures, imports or supplies any work equipment to ensure that it is designed and constructed so it will be safe and without risks to health when being used, cleaned or maintained. The company was fined £19,327, including costs.

Our Comment  – Manual Sliding Gates

This case highlights that designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of an article for work have responsibilities for Health and Safety and should build this into the design and manufacture process. The school believed they had commissioned a competent organisation to design, manufacture and install the gate and had every expectation that the gate would be safe to use.

Sliding doors and gates should have a stop or other effective means to prevent the door coming off the track. They should also have a retaining rail to prevent the door falling should the suspension system fail, or the rollers leave the track.

Incidents Involving Swing Barriers

Each year there are a number of incidents involving swing barriers which have not been properly secured.  In each case a vehicle has come into contact with the leading edge which, in some instances, penetrates the windscreen resulting in injury to the driver. A recent example was a skip lorry which was hit by the leading edge of a height restriction barrier which had not been secured.

How can this risk be controlled?

The key controls measures should include:

  • Ensure arrangements are in place to secure the barrier in the open position during the day and in the closed position at night. This task could be completed by security personnel who have been given written instructions and training.
  • Wherever possible, avoid tenants have access to padlock keys and security codes, as you may remain responsible should anything go wrong.
  • Monitoring arrangements are effective by checking the barriers are secured when you are completing routine site visits, and taking action where there are reports of the barriers not being secured.

 

Open Water Hazards

There has been a rise in the number of fatalities from drowning as result of people swimming in rivers, lakes, quarries and other similar open water. Two recent cases involved a disused quarry and a closed aqua park. There are a number of points to be considered which can reduce this hazard:

  1. Are there areas of open water which are under your control, or could be directly accessed from areas under your control?
  2. Is there a history of activities and incidents in relation to the open water, eg trespass, swimming, tombstoning etc.?
  3. Are there areas where people, and particularly children, are attracted to the water’s edge, eg a pier, jetty or activity occurring on the water.
  4. If the above apply, then consider completing an open water risk assessment. This should evaluate the following key factors and whether further action is required:
  5. Strong currents
  6. Deep water
  7. Steep banks
  8. Uneven depth or obstructions in the water
  9. Where easy access to open water is identified as an issue, the main objective should be to minimise that access. This may include short lengths of fencing or other such physical barriers at key points.
  10. Information signs play their part. Consider the key hazards, prohibitions and emergency arrangements.

Further guidance can be found in the RoSPA publication Managing Safety at Inland Waters.

 

Cooling Towers

Cooling systems incorporating cooling towers which were switched off during COVID-19 are now progressively being returned to use.

If you are responsible for a cooling tower, how do you know that the arrangements that should be in place are working effectively? The following key controls should be checked weekly by the relevant contractor and documented in the site logbook:

  1. pH – result should be between 7.0 and 9.5.
  2. Oxidising Biocide – results should be between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm.
  3. Weekly dipslide – results should be < 10,000 cfu/ml (see example below).
  4. Chemical Dosing Tanks – they should be topped up asap if there is only around 25% remaining in the tank.
  5. Water Softeners – should be topped up asap if close to 50% salt is left in the brine tank.
  6. Monitoring arrangements to ensure that the treated water circulates through the entire system.

You would get a good snapshot of the control scheme by checking the logbook and monitoring that the above are being documented consistently and, that where there are any results outside of these limits, there are clear remedial works identified and actioned.

 

Guidance On Ventilation Systems and COVID-19

The HSE has recently issued guidance to clarify the risk presented by air conditioning in relation to the spread of COVID-19. The HSE states that the “risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace is extremely low” and the majority of air conditioning systems can be used as normal. The one exception being systems that re-circulate air between rooms, where it is recommended that the recirculation is switched off and a fresh air supply used.

Electrical Testing – Private Rented Sector

New regulations relating to fixed electrical testing in the private rented sector came into effect on 1 July for new tenancies. They will apply to existing tenants from 1 April 2021.

These new regulations require landlords to inspect and test the fixed wiring at least very 5 years, bringing this sector in line with commercial property. In addition to planning and completing the inspection and test, there are some very specific requirements in relation to the resultant report.  The copy of the report is to be provided for:

  1. Existing tenants within 28 days of the inspection
  2. New tenants before they occupy
  3. Prospective tenants within 28 days of a request
  4. Local authority within 7 days of a request

There are also short deadlines in relation to any remedial action, which should be completed within 28 days, and confirmation of completion of works provided to tenants and the local authority within another 28 days.

Local authorities also have powers to issue remedial notices and carry out urgent repairs.

For further information see our Briefing Note.

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)

An EMF is produced when any electrical or electronic equipment is used. This includes laptops and mobile phones. High levels of EMF can cause health effects, however this is generally restricted to people working in specific high risk industries where the risk is generally understood and controlled.

A common source of EMF are telecom masts found on many buildings’ roofs, and we receive enquiries on whether these sources present a risk. Therefore, we thought it would be worthwhile to review our guidance on this subject. In general, the risk from EMF from these sources are low unless you are in front of the source for an extended period of time.

Therefore, in summary:

  • Restrict access near to masts.
  • If there is abseiling or access cradles used near masts, then the relevant contractor should include this risk in their Risk Assessment and Method Statement and should avoid passing in front of the masts.
  • Warning signage should be displayed on the approach to the mast and the area chained off to stop people getting too close.

If there are concerns about the positioning of masts and reassurance is required, then:

  • Contact the installer to seek clarification regarding exposure levels and safe working areas.
  • Should the above not provide the necessary assurances, then you could arrange for measurements to be taken around the area to check that the exposure limits are not exceeded.

Company News

Training During COVID-19

For many companies, face-to-face training during COVID-19 has been difficult to organise, due to lockdown, the limited size of rooms and requirements to socially distance. Therefore, online training using Teams or Zoom is proving an effective alternative to deliver essential training needs. This format requires some adaption to account for a different environment and the need to include more interaction and more practical activities.

We have successfully delivered a number of virtual courses with very positive feedback from delegates adopting this new learning approach. These include fire warden training, permit to work and asbestos awareness. We are now programming the transfer of all our training courses to this medium, including our accredited IOSH Safety for Property Managers courses.

For further information contact enquiries@wmcompliance.co.uk or call 020 3819 8829.

Asbestos Management – Pre-Let Properties

As properties are vacated, the duty to manage asbestos will revert back to the landlord or their agents as the dutyholder. There should be a handover of information from the outgoing tenant, however often this may not be the case. In addition, the incoming tenants will expect an asbestos survey report as part of their due diligence.

Normally, an Asbestos Management Survey will be sufficient to meet the landlord’s duty to manage asbestos. However, some incoming tenants may require an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey if they are planning any refurbishment work or they require that the property is ‘asbestos free’.

To avoid last minute hitches in leasing property, plan the asbestos survey in advance. Remember that a survey may identify asbestos related issues which will require resolution prior to letting.

If you would like help managing asbestos, including surveys and project management, contact enquiries@wmcompliance.co.uk or call 020 3819 8829.

Feedback

If you would like to discuss any items from the newsletter in more detail, or if you have any further comments regarding the content of this issue or future issues, please contact: enquiries@wmcompliance.co.uk or call 020 3819 8829.