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Exploding the MYTHS

Health andsafetylegislation hasgonemad.Thisiswhat many of us think but are we right? Here is Flat Living’s attempt to put the record straight, with a little help from the Health and Safety Executive’s website

WhatRMC/RtMCo directorsare obliged to do for their block in terms of health and safety is an area that constantly causes confusionand is frequently misinterpreted. Under health and safety legislation, thecommonpartsofblocksofflatsare considered to be ‘places of work’and as such comeundertheManagement of Health& Safety atWork Regulations1999.The Health andSafetyExecutive (HSE)can be contacted for help and more information if you are unsure of your obligations. In themeantime, here areafew examplesfrom theHSE of health and safetymyths that are just that – completely untrue.

Be aware that best price doesn’t always equal the best results

MOvIngfORwaRd Sowhoiscompetent andhow canyou tell?The fire safety industry as awhole is attempting to address this issue in adocumenttitled Fire Protection Industry Scheme for fire risk assessment organisations (available fromwww. schemefororganisations that providefire risk assessmentsfor others.Whilethisdocument mentions competency it has clearly stated in thecommentarythat“it is notthe purpose of theschemetoassessthe competence of theindividualsinvolved”.Whether this schemegoes farenoughremains to be seen. Although usingregisteredorganisations on this schemewill providesomeprotection, you stillmay end up with an unsuitable fire risk assessment. It is afactoflifethatevery clientwants value

formoney andthere arealsothose that will cut theirprice to gain newbusiness. Thereality is, that lowbarrierstoentry leavethemarketopen to abusebythose lookingto‘cashin’ onwhat is seen as alucrativemarket. Theresultant outcomeisassessmentswhichdonot standup to scrutiny andare likelytofailthe ‘suitable andsufficient’ test. Beawarethatbest price does not necessarily equal the best results. So,whenisafire risk assessor afire risk

assessor?Whenasuitableand sufficient assessmentwhichprotectsyou,yourclients andstandsuptoscrutinyissupplied;when they take the timeto visit the property and ask the relevant questions;when the assessment is notseenasasales opportunity andlastandmost important,when they are prepared to standupand be accountablefor what they have provided to the client.●

KevinBorehamis head ofHealth,Safetyand Compliance atMainstay tel 01905 357 777

Flat Living Spring2012

MythHSEbans this that and the other... therealityTherehavebeenmanyreports in thepress in recent yearsofhealthand safety lawbeing responsible forbanning allkinds of things,from coconut shys at church fetesand knitting in hospitalstoflip flops at work andevencuddly toys on dustbinlorries. In fact health andsafety

legislationisresponsible forbanning very little–withafewhigh-riskexceptions such as asbestoswhichkills morethan5,000 people a year. According to theHSE, “health and safety should be about taking practical steps tomanage real risks, not bureaucracy leading to the banning of everyday activities”. That doesn’tmean the scare storieswon’t continue to appear in thepapers, so next time you read about a ridiculous ‘ban’, check it out

Myth Riskassessments are long and complicated thereality Carrying outariskassessment is probably alot morestraightforward than you think. It’s all about focusing on real risks andhazards that couldcause genuineharm andtakingactiontocontrol thosehazards. Youare notrunning an oilrefinery–a bullet point list with action points next to themwherenecessarymaybeall youneed. See page 62 for a quick guide to putting one together – youmay not even need to seek professional help if youliveinasmall block.

Myth Every possible risk needs a safety sign thereality using toomany signs is completely counter-productive as it simply guarantees they will be ignored.Safety signs areusefulwhen there’sasignificant (often temporary) risk that can’t be avoided or controlled in anyother way. Such risks include builders working overhead or gas engineersdigging aholethatsomeone could

fall into.Examplesofuseful signs that alert residentstopermanent,unavoidable risks mightinclude ‘mindyourhead’,ifthere is alow joistorbeaminahallway or other common area and ‘Mind the step’ if these aredifficult to see. This doesn’tmeanyou should provideasignfor everypossible risk, howevertrivial it mightbe. However,where thereare seriousrisks in your block, such as abalcony with alow rail,don’t just rely on signs –takepractical stepstodealwith them.Replace that railing with something moresubstantial -you don’thavetoremove thewhole balcony. If youdoneed asign, make sure it is clearly visible and uses the right symbol for the hazard in question.

Myth It’sOKto get a general handyman towork on gas appliances thereality

e realityAnyonewho is

employed to work on gas appliancesmust be listed on theGas Safe Register. If the person you are using isn’t registered theymay not be workingsafelyand they

t re they may not arealsobreakingthe law. Badly

repaired or poorly-fittedgas appliances can lead to dangerousleaks,carbonmonoxide poisoning, fires andexplosions. Somake sure your engineer is GasSaferegistered– just check the back of their ID card.

Putting the record straight

Whereverpossible,the HSEnow responds to health andsafetyarticlesand reports in theUKmedia, including a link on its website( to therelevantarticle together with the HSEresponse. So farno‘puttingthe record straight’ stories have been issued in 2012.●


HSEhasalsorecently introducedan IndependentRegulatoryChallenge Panel,whichisamechanismfora personoracompanytochallenge healthandsafetyadvice fromalocal authorityorHSEinspectorthat they thinkisincorrect orgoesbeyondwhat is requiredtocontrol theriskadequately. Inaddition(andperhaps ofmore interest toRMCdirectors) isasecond panel–tobesetuplaterthisyear–that canbeapproachedbyanyonewanting tochallengeclaimsmadeabouthealth andsafety requirementsbynon regulators.Formore informationgoto panel.htm


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