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Q&A

Environmental

A DEC shows the energy performance of the building based on actual metered consumption and aims to raise public awareness of energy consumption. An EPC is an energy rating for a building based on the performance potential of the building fabric and its services (heating, lighting and ventilation).

Our assessors will be able to offer practical advice and suggest measures to help improve your energy rating.

Water

A detailed assessment of all water related plant to check whether conditions are present which will encourage bacteria to multiply. Recommendations are made which will help prevent exposure to legionella bacteria. The survey would include a survey of all associated water plant including cold water storage cisterns, hot water calorifiers and pipework. Up to date schematics may be required.

The HSWA 1974 and COSHH contain requirements concerning the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria. Employers and those responsible for a building are required to identify and assess the foreseeable risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems on the premises and evaluate a means by which to safeguard staff or members of the public from potential exposure.

Low concentrations of legionella bacteria often occur naturally in environmental water sources such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs. The bacteria may colonise manufactured water systems and be found in cooling towers, hot and cold water systems and other plant which uses or stores water. Water temperature and nutrients may create favourable conditions increasing the risk from Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaire’s disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria. The disease is normally contracted by inhaling legionella bacteria usually in water droplets which are small enough to penetrate deeply into the lungs.

The results of the assessment should be recorded and reviewed regularly (at least every 2 years) and whenever there is a reason to suspect that the assessment may no longer be valid.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, often used in building materials because of its physical and chemical properties. It is a good insulator, has good fire protection properties and protects against corrosion. When inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause cancers and other serious illnesses.

Asbestos was widely used in building materials up until 1999 when its use was prohibited in the UK.

If you suspect you have materials containing asbestos in your property do not disturb or attempt to remove them as this is likely to release fibres into the air and contaminate the surrounding area. Please contact us for details of how to safely obtain a sample for testing.

The action required depends on the type and condition of any ACMs found and the nature of any works which are to take place. If the asbestos is in good condition and is not likely to be disturbed then it is recommended that the material is left where it is and managed. If the asbestos is damaged or is likely to be disturbed then specialist advice should be sought from one of our experts.

For most works with asbestos containing materials the contractor must be licenced by the Health and Safety Executive. Members of asbestos trade associations are recommended.

As a minimum you should be issued with a certificate of re-occupation for the areas where asbestos abatement works have taken place. For larger projects you will receive a project completion file with full records of the asbestos abatement project.

You should ensure that you keep all records relating to asbestos are available and accessible for the entire life of the premises. Details of how to keep records should be included with your asbestos management plan.

Health & Safety

An action plan is needed to deal with any improvements required to reduce or eliminate risks. High risk actions which could cause serious harm should be treated with priority.

Appropriate training and communication with staff will help promote a positive health and safety culture within your business and should reduce accidents and absenteeism.

Putting health and safety targets and an active monitoring system in place will help you to measure performance.

As a minimum you should review contractors’ corporate health and safety documentation, generic risk assessments and method statements, validity of insurance documents and date specific accreditations.

Fire

The Fire Safety Order places the responsibility for fire safety management with a designated responsible person. The responsible person needs to make sure their properties are adequately protected from the risks of fire – not the fire authorities. This person may be the owner, the occupier, an employer or the managing agent acting on behalf of the owner.

The responsible person needs to take certain fire precautions to ensure the safety of all relevant persons. Relevant persons can be tenants, employees and any other people who may be affected by a fire in the building (e.g. general public, visitors or contractors). The responsible person’s main duty is to ensure a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment is carried out, assessing the risk to which the relevant persons may be exposed. Other responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring a fire risk assessment is carried out by a competent person.
  • Undertaking any remedial actions identified in the significant findings of the fire risk assessment.
  • Training staff to react to emergency situations within the specific premises.
  • Recording all maintenance and testing of fire precautions.
  • Recording all training carried out.
  • Ensuring the risk assessment is regularly reviewed by a competent person.

The responsible person must appoint a competent person to carry out fire risk assessments and any subsequent fire safety requirements. The law defines competency as "someone with the necessary training, experience, knowledge and other qualities to carry out the task, yet who is aware of the limitations of their knowledge and abilities". Employers who are entrusting tasks to employees are required to take their capabilities into account, as outlined in The Fire Safety (Employees' Capabilities) (England) Regulations 2010.

A fire risk assessment is a thorough survey of the premises that considers all the fire risks that may affect the premises and the people connected with it. If there are 5 or more people employed within the building, if the premises are licensed, or an alterations notice is in force, the fire risk assessment must be a written report. This report will identify all the hazards and provide detailed significant findings.

These are simply the recommendations arising from the fire risk assessment. Significant findings outline additional control measures that are required to mitigate the risks identified. Responsible persons need to ensure that any remedial actions emerging from the significant findings are completed. Fire risk assessments should prioritise significant findings and provide recommended timescales within which to carry these out.

Once completed, the fire risk assessment is considered to be a live document that must be regularly reviewed. Additional reviews should be carried out when there are process changes in how the building is used, the structure of the building or changes to the specific needs of people who are in or around the building.

Fire Safety legislation applies to all non-domestic premises, including the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Other types of property covered include:

  • Shops and offices
  • Hotels and other sleeping accommodation
  • Residential care premises
  • Educational premises
  • Small and medium places of assembly
  • Large places of assembly
  • Theatres and cinemas
  • Outdoor events
  • Healthcare premises
  • Transport premises and facilities
  • Factories and warehouses
  • Animal premises and stables

The government has developed a fire safety guide for each premises type. Whilst they do not set prescriptive standards, they provide recommendations to aid compliance. They can be found on the Communities Local Government website, or by clicking here.