Health & Safety
Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2006), imposes a legal duty to assess and manage the risk from Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) on those who have responsibility for the communal areas of blocks of flats built before the year 2000 (when asbestos was finally phased out). An asbestos survey should be completed to allow the person(s) responsible to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations.
Currently between 3500 and 4000 die every year from asbestos-related diseases and by the year 2020 it is predicted that 625,000 deaths directly related to asbestos exposure will have occurred.
Reasonable steps must be taken to identify ACM, if necessary, by presuming the presence of asbestos until proven otherwise.
Where asbestos is located managers are required to keep an Asbestos Register reports on the likely locations of asbestos in the communal areas together with any recommendations.
The Buildings Regulations 2010 state that it is not necessary to provide escape lighting in small blocks of flats of no more than two storeys, with adequate levels of natural or street lighting (borrowed lighting). If installed, emergency lighting should be tested every month.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) and the Housing Act 2004 state that in ‘general needs’ blocks designed to support a ‘stay put’ policy, the guide makes it clear that it is unnecessary and undesirable for a communal fire alarm system to be provided. There has never been any requirement under Building Regulations, local acts or bye-laws to install a communal fire alarm system in a purpose-built block of flats, nor is there any such requirement today under the Building Regulations 2010. A communal fire detection and alarm system will inevitably lead to a proliferation of false alarms. This will impose a burden on fire and rescue services and lead to residents ignoring warnings of genuine fires. A fire alarm system ought to be provided only in a building in which some control can be achieved over the occupants to ensure that they respond appropriately. For most blocks of flats, it would be unrealistic to expect this. Nor is it necessarily desirable that evacuation should take place from areas remote from the fire, unless and until these areas themselves become threatened by the fire.
In view of the above, only in unusual circumstances will a communal fire detection and alarm system be appropriate for a ‘general needs’ purpose-built block of flats.
However, where alarms are installed they should be tested on a weekly basis.