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Health and safety

Stay safe and warm this winter

The snow may have melted, but many of us are still experiencing cold weather. Here are our tips for keeping yourself and your flat warm - and avoiding insurance claims

Provisional statistics released by England’s Fire and Rescue Ser- vices in December, show that in 2009/10 nearly 2000 fires were started by electric blankets, candles or portable heaters, resulting in more than 400 injuries and deaths. To try and prevent such tragic accidents, the Fire Kills Campaign has released this commonsense advice to help you reduce your fire risk this winter. • Always use a fire guard to protect an open fire against flying sparks and hot embers and make sure embers are under control and properly put out before you go out or go to bed.

• Keep portable heaters away from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes. Always unplug electric heaters when you go out and go to bed.

• Every year, around 440 injuries result from every 1000 fires started by an electric blanket so unplug blankets before you get into bed, unless they have a thermostat control for safe all-night use.

• Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if the blanket is switched off.

• Store electric blankets flat, rolled up or loosely folded to prevent damaging the internal wiring.

• If you use candles in your flat, make sure that they are secured in a proper holder, and are kept away from flammable materials like curtains and sofas.

• Put candles out completely when you leave the room or go to bed.

For further information on fire safety go to or contact your local Fire and Rescue Service to arrange a free Home Fire Risk Check. A fire safety officer will be happy to visit your flat to assess the potential fire risk in your home and advise you on using smoke alarms.


The Trading Standards Service is urging homeowners to be aware of rogue traders operating in their area, particularly in cold weather when unscrupulous tradesmen may spot an opportunity to pressurise householders to hand over cash by convincing them that their homes require immediate work. This applies equally to RMC directors as to individual homeowners. Trading Standards advises that you: • are wary of warnings about the state of repair of your block; • don’t hand over large cash deposits; • never pay for work up front; • don’t agree to a trader starting work immediately; • take time to consult with a fellow leaseholder/director before deciding to go ahead with repairs – a reputable trader will expect you to take time to come to a decision.


Where goods or services cost over £35, you are entitled to a seven day cooling-off period during which you can cancel a contract. By law, sellers must provide a prospective customer with written notice of their right to cancel, along with a cancellation form. If traders do not comply, any contract agreed with you will not be legally binding and the trader will be committing an offence. If you feel that you’ve been the victim of a scam, or a potential scam,

report it to Consumerline on tel: 0300 123 6262 or go to the Consumerline website at

• Wear a dust mask, gloves and goggles if you are sawing or working with glass or spray paint.

• Use ear plugs when drilling. • Use ladders with care – falls cause the majority of DIY-related accidents in the home. Always rest your ladder on a clean, solid surface and don’t lean to one side. Don’t over-reach - move the ladder and never struggle with a ladder on your own. Get help.

• Keep your tool box tidy and use the guards on saws, knives and chisels.

• Make sure you have access to a First Aid kit. • Keep a chemical fire extinguisher in the house – never throw water on an electrical fire.

• If you run out of time, come back to the job later. Don’t take short cuts and never attempt a job when you are feeling tired.

• If you can’t finish a job don’t be embarrassed to call in an expert. • Leave gas problems and electrical installations to the professionals.

Selling? Don’t ignore damp, pests and dodgy DIY

UK homebuyers polled by Post Office Mortgages this win- ter, say they would be turned off by signs of damp, pests and botched DIY when viewing potential properties to purchase, So if you want to sell your flat, find the source of any bad smells, ditch those old carpets and get an expert in to do those tricky DIY jobs rather than tackling them yourself.. The newly published research also revealed what is most likely to

entice people to buy a property, with a new kitchen, new bathroom and just being clean and tidy making up the top three. The Post Office Mortgages study also cited original features, wooden floors and modern appliances as significant turn-ons for homebuyers. 35

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