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Managing Fire Risk – The dangers of recycling and electrical equipment

Posted: 02/07/2014 13:50

The last few blogs have concentrated on managing fire risks within blocks of flats, particularly in communal areas and corridors. We have established that on occasion, a Landlord can operate a successful ‘managed use’ policy, which allows residents some use of common corridors for personal items, but that many prefer the simpler and most effective ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

This week two major areas of concern within blocks of flats come under the microscope – recycling materials and electrical equipment.

Recycling in blocks of flats

It would be true to say that by the current time, the majority of us are very used to collecting rubbish which is recyclable and sorting it for collection by the local council’s refuse service. However, in the case of individual houses, this rubbish is either stored within the home and then placed at an outside collection point on collection day, or it is stored in bins outside the home all the time. When considering a block of flats, residents put the recycling outside their front doors, either in boxes or bags and this becomes a very significant fire risk.

The same is true of charity collections, bric-a-brac, clothing, books etc. which not only causes obstructions in the corridors, but provides a very ignitable source of fire hazard.

The fire risk assessment undertaken on the block of flats will not have allowed for such hazards within the common corridors of a block of flats and so, such materials cannot be allowed to be there, even when the risk is perhaps only overnight or for a few hours.

The risk is so substantial, that even in the case of a managed use policy, no rubbish, recycling or charity collection bags should be placed outside resident front doors. Landlords must address this issue by making alternative arrangements for collection of those items, perhaps from an outside storage area away from the building.

Electrical equipment fire risk

Electrical equipment is used with such frequency in the home that it is impossible to consider life without our gadgets and toys. In the UK, around 17% of all fires in the home are caused by electrical goods – the second largest cause of domestic fire.

Many fires occur because of electrical faults and these faults can sometimes be spotted before fire results. Fuses tripping or appliances only working intermittently can be a sign of faulty electrics which could ultimately lead to fire. Landlords should encourage residents to be vigilant to such faults and to obtain repair or dispose of the broken item appropriately in those cases. Equally, electrical testing should be encouraged.

Landlords also have a responsibility to have the electrical installations within flats tested periodically. The period in question will be dependent upon the age of the building, the age of the electrical components, the duration of the tenancy and the profile of the tenant.

For instance, an inspection period of ten years would be appropriate in the case of a long term tenant whereas a five year inspection period would be more appropriate for a shorter tenancy. Either way, the Landlord should make inspections of the electrical outlets and installations within the property before each tenant takes occupation.

The inspection and test and any necessary remedial work, should be undertaken in accordance with the current Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Wiring Regulations (BS 7671) and the recommendations in IET ‘Guidance Note 3’. Guidance on periodic inspection reporting is also available from the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) and can be downloaded from the ESC website.

Any portable electrical appliances that might be present in the common parts and other areas under the control of the responsible person should also be subject to inspection and test on a regular basis. Guidance on the nature and frequency of this can be found in the IET Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment.

If you have any questions about fire safety and fire risk assessments in your block of flats, or wish to speak to a Fire Engineer, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.

The Complete Fire Safety Management Platform - Our aim, at CFSM, is to make the process of becoming fire-safe straight forward, and to use our expertise in fire risk assessment and fire safety management to guide you through each necessary step, resulting in your premises meeting all legal, insurance and ethical fire safety considerations. The Complete Fire Safety Management platform is part of Lawrence Webster Forrest Limited, one of the UK's longest established Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultancies.


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