How asbestos does its damage

We all know that asbestos is not something we want to be exposed to for any length of time due to its detrimental health effects. However, many of us do not understand precisely why asbestos is bad for us. Learning the ways in which asbestos harms the body is a useful tool in helping people pay close attention to whether or not they might have asbestos within their homes or workplaces. The following facts are a simple taste of why we should not ignore the issue of asbestos.

1. Asbestos can cause a lung disease called asbestosis

Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause scarring in your lungs, a condition known as asbestosis. Asbestosis means your breathing is restricted and can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream. Many cases of the disease, also known as interstitial pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis, are caused by exposure to asbestos in workplaces before laws regulating the use of the material were put in place during the 1970s.

2. Asbestosis takes years to develop and causes a range of nasty symptoms

Asbestosis can take up to 40 years to develop after the initial exposure to asbestos. Its symptoms include a persistent cough, tightness around the chest, difficulty breathing and nail deformities.

3. Asbestosis can lead to even more serious conditions

Asbestosis is associated with an increased risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, a very severe form of lung cancer. Of course, this risk is increased even further if you smoke. Other lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pleural effusion (a build up of fluid around the lungs) can also develop from having asbestosis. These are very serious diseases and can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life and, indeed, length of life.

If you have ever been exposed to asbestos, do not panic. There are a number of factors that affect how severe the disease is and whether it will lead on to other conditions. These include how long you were exposed to asbestos for and how much of it you actually inhaled. The disease progresses at a much slower rate once you are no longer exposed to asbestos, which again shows the importance of making sure buildings are clear of it.We all know that asbestos is not something we want to be exposed to for any length of time due to its detrimental health effects. However, many of us do not understand precisely why asbestos is bad for us. Learning the ways in which asbestos harms the body is a useful tool in helping people pay close attention to whether or not they might have asbestos within their homes or workplaces. The following facts are a simple taste of why we should not ignore the issue of asbestos.

1. Asbestos can cause a lung disease called asbestosis

Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause scarring in your lungs, a condition known as asbestosis. Asbestosis means your breathing is restricted and can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream. Many cases of the disease, also known as interstitial pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis, are caused by exposure to asbestos in workplaces before laws regulating the use of the material were put in place during the 1970s.

2. Asbestosis takes years to develop and causes a range of nasty symptoms

Asbestosis can take up to 40 years to develop after the initial exposure to asbestos. Its symptoms include a persistent cough, tightness around the chest, difficulty breathing and nail deformities.

3. Asbestosis can lead to even more serious conditions

Asbestosis is associated with an increased risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, a very severe form of lung cancer. Of course, this risk is increased even further if you smoke. Other lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pleural effusion (a build up of fluid around the lungs) can also develop from having asbestosis. These are very serious diseases and can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life and, indeed, length of life.

If you have ever been exposed to asbestos, do not panic. There are a number of factors that affect how severe the disease is and whether it will lead on to other conditions. These include how long you were exposed to asbestos for and how much of it you actually inhaled. The disease progresses at a much slower rate once you are no longer exposed to asbestos, which again shows the importance of making sure buildings are clear of it.

Designing your stables with fire prevention in mind

If you are contemplating starting a business running a livery yard or riding stables, one thing that should be high on your list of priorities is fire safety. Good health and safety practices are essential if you are to obtain building safety certification and pass a fire safety inspection. With this in mind, here are some top tips to ensure that your yard is fire-safe and will pass muster at the inspection.

Building construction

When designing your new stable yard, you should, where possible, use masonry walls and steel frames. If possible, ensure that the flooring of your stables is made from compacted earth or cement. Use rubber kicking boards to line the stable walls, rather than wooden ply. These won’t ignite easily, making it much more difficult for a fire to take hold.

Wooden roof joists and beams should be treated with fire-retardant products to slow down the progress of a fire, should one start. Wherever possible, avoid using soft-wood, as it can be very easily combustible.
Although barn-style stabling is popular and has the advantage of being cool in the summer and warm in the winter, it can also trap smoke and present a safety risk in the event of fire. If you do go for a barn design, make sure that there are wide exit doors both ends and one in the centre.

Electrical equipment and wiring should be kept well-protected inside metal casings from curious horses and nibbling vermin.

Yard design

When designing your yard, keep evacuation at the forefront of your mind. Remember that you will not only have to evacuate the horses, you will also need to consider your staff, clients, and visitors too. One exit from a traditional horse-shoe shaped yard will not be sufficient to safely accommodate everyone in an emergency, and could form a trap if the fire was in that vicinity.

You can overcome this problem by ensuring that you have at least three exits, sited at different points in the yard. One of these should be designated for the evacuation of horses and should provide direct or easy access to a safely fenced area where the animals can be safely contained.

Storage of forage and bedding

Never keep forage or bedding adjacent to the stables or in a loft area above them. There should be a distance of at least six metres between the storage area and the stables.

Regularly serviced, approved fire extinguishers should also be situated in your yard, and clear operation instructions must be displayed next to each appliance. Ensure that all your staff members are fully trained in the operation of these appliances.

If you want to consider your horses and staff’s safety, and ensure your property is truly fire-safe, contact us today to find out more about the fire risk assessments we provide to satisfied customers every day.

Protecting your home and your family from asbestos

Prior to 1999, asbestos was widely used in the construction industry. Present in both residential and commercial buildings, asbestos was used in a variety of materials, such as textiles and floor tiles. In addition to this, asbestos was often present in structural materials, such as cement products or fireproof barriers.

Although the dangers of asbestos are now widely recognised, it is still present in many buildings. Whilst undisturbed asbestos may not be dangerous to your health, if it is exposed or moved, it could be hazardous.

Commissioning asbestos surveys

Confirming whether asbestos is present in your home via a survey could confirm whether your health is at risk and will enable you to decide whether to have it professionally removed. A Management Survey, for example, will confirm whether asbestos is present and, if so, where it is and what condition it is in.

Even if you decide to leave the asbestos untouched, you’ll be aware of the potential dangers and will be able to avoid disturbing the material with future renovations. However, with many buildings undergoing refurbishments or having extensions added, it’s possible that existing asbestos may have been disturbed.

If so, you and your family could be at risk of contracting an asbestos-related illness. The severity of these types of illnesses is extremely concerning and, as a result, you may wish to ensure that asbestos is fully removed from your property.

If you’re considering making changes to your home, a Refurbishment and Demolition Survey will provide a more detailed assessment of the risk that the asbestos presents, as well as information regarding the removal of the substance and the potential costs involved.

Ensuring your future home is safe

If you’re planning on renovating your property or adding an extension, it’s vital that you identify the presence of asbestos prior to carrying out any work. Building work is likely to disturb asbestos and will, therefore, present a risk to your health and safety if it’s already present in your property.

Although the substance may pose a risk to your health, asbestos surveys and asbestos removal audits are an effective way to identify any potential dangers and will enable you to arrange professional asbestos removal, if necessary.

Safety tips for preventing home fires

A fire in your home can be devastating, but most domestic fires are preventable. Here are some tips on how to reduce the fire risk in your home.

Kitchen fire safety

Many house fires originate in the kitchen. You can prevent accidents by:

• always turning off your cooker when it’s not in use
• keeping tea towels well away from the cooker and hob
• never leaving hot fat or oil unattended and taking it off the heat immediately if it begins to smoke

Electrical safety

Electrical fires in the home are also quite common. Using the wrong fuse for an appliance can cause it to overheat, as can overloading power sockets with extension plugs. Any items with damaged power cords should not be used until the cabling has been repaired or replaced.

It’s sensible to clear tumble driers of fluff and debris at least once a fortnight. Tumble driers generate a lot of heat and an accumulation of dry fluff can act as tinder, starting a fire.

Tea lights and candles

Although flickering candles and tealights can look lovely, they can also present a serious fire hazard. Always put candles and tealights in holders that don’t allow the flame to be exposed, and keep them well away from curtains and other flammable items. Extinguish all naked flames when you leave a room.

Smoke alarms are essential

You stand much more chance of escaping from a fire if you are alerted to its presence quickly. Smoke alarms should be fitted throughout your home on every floor. You should test your smoke alarms every week to ensure that they are operating correctly. Ask your local fire protection services provider for more advice on the installation and testing of smoke alarms for your property.

It’s also important that you and your family have a clear escape plan for fires that occur during the night when you are all upstairs in bed. Make sure that everyone knows where the keys to window locks are and agree on a meeting place following evacuation. Your fire protection service provided will be able to help you with devising a suitable escape plan.

House fires are all too common, but you can help to keep your home and family protected by following the above tips. For total peace of mind, why not consider having a fire risk assessmentcarried out on your home?

Are landlords complying with the law?

Difficulty in getting on the property ladder in the UK, in conjunction with the booming rental market, has led to an increase in tenants, rather than homeowners. With many people living in rented accommodation, landlords have been able to take advantage of the increased demand for their properties and boost their revenue accordingly.

Whilst it may be tempting for existing homeowners to gain a second income by buying and renting properties, the responsibilities of a landlord should not be overlooked. There is a wealth of legislation which landlords must abide by and many regulations relate to the health and safety of their tenants.

Protecting your tenants from fire

Before renting a property out, landlords should ensure that a thorough fire assessment has been undertaken. Failure to do so could result in action being taken against the landlord or their property management company and it could also invalidate any insurance policies which are in place.

If you have numerous tenants situated in one building, it may be tempting to try and cut costs by excluding the communal areas from a fire risk assessment. Technically, landlords aren’t required to carry out a risk assessment in communal areas if they don’t own them.

Despite this, it’s often advisable for landlords to include these areas in their risk assessments. Should contractors need to enter the site, for example, they may want access to completed fire risk assessment forms before beginning work.

Similarly, if maintenance staff are employed to service the building, they have the right to work in a safe environment and, therefore, fire risk assessments must be carried out.

Carrying out effective fire risk assessments

Whilst landlords may not have to carry out assessments in communal areas, if they don’t own them, their insurers may insist that they do. Often, insurance companies are unwilling to provide a policy unless the landlord accepts responsibility for communal areas, as well as private dwellings within the building.

Accessing professional fire risk assessment services can, therefore, help to reduce the cost of insurance your properties and ensure that you’re operating legally.

Of course, the most pressing reason to conduct regular fire assessments is the potential risk to your tenants. By arranging for regular assessments to be carried out, you can ensure that you’re providing your tenants with a safe home and reducing the risk of a fire causing untold harm. Contact us today to find out more about conducting fire risk assessments.

Why you need a pre-demolition asbestos inspection

If you’re planning on having an old building demolished so that you can begin a new-build project on the site, you might want to commission a pre-demolition asbestos inspection first. But why is this so important and is it worth the expense?

Why you need a pre-demolition asbestos inspection

The fibres contained within asbestos can cause serious respiratory diseases, including some kinds of cancer. Demolishing buildings that contain asbestos can release these microfibres into the air, presenting a hazard to the building crew and to passersby.

Many buildings constructed before 1999 were built using asbestos containing materials, such as pipe insulation, rope, and even paint. If you go ahead with demolition and the process releases asbestos fibres, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. This will help the inspection to go more quickly and smoothly, saving you money in the long run.

What a pre-demolition asbestos inspection involves

Asbestos inspectors are specially trained to find building components that contain the substance. This can involve intensive and intrusive examination of areas of the building to be demolished. The expert inspectors will be kitted-out with the correct safety equipment to ensure that they won’t be harmed if any asbestos is disturbed during their inspection. Note here that this is a highly specialist job and it’s not something that you should attempt to undertake yourself.

Before the inspection can take place, you will need to provide the inspection team with a detailed site layout, building plans if you have them, and any information you have regarding a history of asbestos use in the original construction of the building.

On completion of the inspection, the survey team will compile a report giving details of any asbestos that has been found on the site, together with their recommendations regarding its removal. When the safe removal of the asbestos containing material has been carried out and the site is deemed to be ‘safe’, the inspectors will produce a further report to that effect.

Removal of the asbestos is a specialist job too and not something that you can undertake yourself. The site inspectors will recommend a suitably qualified contractor to carry out the demolition work for you.

If you are planning on demolishing an old property, you should be aware that it might have asbestos-containing materials as part of the fabric of the building. For this reason, you should have the property inspected by a specialist contractor, prior to proceeding with the work. Contact us today to arrange an inspection.

CQC urges care homes to assess fire risk

The UK’s care homes have been urged to pay special attention to their fire risk assessments following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) – which regulates the care industry in England – has recommended that all residential care homes double check their fire safety systems, policies and procedures.

The CQC also sent the letter to hospices and independent hospitals.

Within it, CQC’s chief executive David Behan urged all residential facilities to take robust measures. He also said: “Review your fire safety processes in your registered premises to ensure they are up to date and are being applied consistently in practice. In particular, I ask you to pay attention to the size and fabric of your registered premises.”

The need to commission professional fire risk assessments in buildings housing vulnerable residents became tragically clear with Grenfell Tower. However, the issue was thrown even more into the spotlight when by the end of June, 95 buildings in 32 different local authorities failed fire safety tests.

The tests carried out included sending samples of cladding to be checked.

However, combustible cladding is not the only area of renewed concern in commercial premises. There is an increased emphasis on having fully functional sprinkler systems and fire alarms, as well the correct number of fire extinguishers. Plus, clear points of access for fire crews and well planned and rehearsed evacuation procedures.

Clearly all of this becomes particularly crucial in sheltered housing, care homes and other residential premises where vulnerable and infirm people reside.

Mobility issues or learning disabilities can hamper the ability of residents to evacuate buildings promptly. This makes certain fire risk assessment measures even more vital; including making sure that fire exits are not blocked, fire doors are not wedged open and escape routes are clear.

It also involves checking on a daily basis that staff are fully trained. They must be aware of their responsibilities and roles if a fire does occur to underpin good practice in fire safety.

Contrast Surveys work with landlords and other business owners to carry out thorough fire risk assessments. These are designed to not only meet legislative requirements and the demands of insurance companies, but to exceed them also.

Contrast Surveys ensures that all fire risk assessments are carried out with diligence and insight into the special needs and circumstances of each and every facility.

Can residents demand a fire risk assessment?

Due to a number of high-profile crisis situations, there is increasing concern regarding the safety of residential buildings across the United Kingdom. Despite a number of fire safety regulations being in place, many tenants are concerned that their landlords are failing to meet their duties.

Whilst fire safety regulations can help to provide tragedies from occurring, they will only be effective if they are followed. Strict adherence to such regulations can prevent fires from occurring but they can also ensure there is an effective escape route if a fire does break out.

By assessing key areas, such as fire exits and communal areas in flats, potential hazards can be identified and removed prior to an emergency situation. Fire exits, for example, should always be kept clear. Whilst they may not be used regularly, a blocked fire exit could result in unnecessary fatalities if a fire breaks out and may even constitute a breach of the law.

What are landlord responsibilities?

When it comes to landlord responsibilities, health and safety is of primary importance. If residents have concerns regarding the safety of their home, it’s vital that they have a point of contact.

Whilst landlords aren’t always responsible for communal areas in flat, they are in many cases. Furthermore, if employees or contractors need to enter a building, they are within their rights to refuse to work if a fire assessment has not been carried out.

Due to this, most landlords are keen to include communal areas in any fire risk assessments. By doing so, they can ensure a safe home environment for tenants and a safe working environment for employees or maintenance workers.

Conducting regular fire risk assessments

An effective fire risk assessment isn’t just a one-off requirement. Committing to a regular assessment schedule will ensure that buildings are kept up-to-date in terms of fire safety and that they conform to the latest regulations and standards. In addition to this, materials, such as fire extinguishers, can be checked to ensure that they are still in good working order.

Whilst landlords may face vast amounts of regulations and bureaucracy, there is nothing more important than health and safety. By organising fire risk assessments, landlords can avoid criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits and costly insurance premiums, as well as saving lives and preventing catastrophic tragedies from occurring. Contact us today to discuss a fire risk assessment further.

It’s your responsibility – 3 common landlord myths about fire risk assessment

If you own and let residential or commercial property, managing fire risk is one of your major responsibilities as a landlord.

With the recent Grenfell Tower fire all over the news, it’s more important than ever to protect your property and its users.

In this blog, we will dispel some of the myths around fire risk management and raise awareness of landlord responsibilities.

Myth: Anyone can easily complete a fire risk assessment.

Fact: Any landlord can in theory carry out a fire risk assessment, but it’s not advisable.

There are templates available on the Internet, but they’re no substitute for experts. Often these templates only direct the assessor to a handful of points in the property, but a substantial risk assessment for a building usually requires many more criteria than that.

Myth: I’m not responsible for installing smoke alarms. The tenants should do that.

Fact: Fire risk assessment is about more than just making sure there is a safe escape route. Since 2015 private landlords have indeed been responsible for putting up smoke alarms on each floor of the property, and in the same year they became responsible for putting carbon monoxide alarms in every room containing an appliance which burns solid fuel.

Myth: I don’t have to carry out a fire risk assessment on my property.

Fact: According to legislation, all landlords must carry out a fire risk assessment which is “suitable and sufficient” and which protects “relevant people” like tenants or staff members.

There is no precise legal definition of what constitutes “suitable and sufficient”, but a fire risk assessment which systematically pinpoints and removes fire risks is a good start. Minimising the chances and potential spread of a blaze and ensuring that those who use the building can be alerted and escape is the overall aim.

Turning to a professional fire risk management company such as Contrast Surveys is a prudent move for you as a landlord. We can bring our years of experience and expertise to your property and provide you with peace of mind. Get in touch with us today to find out more.

Why you need professionals for asbestos removal

Everyone wants to save money by doing things themselves and when it comes to decorating the walls or mowing the lawn then of course, you should go for it. But when it comes to more serious jobs like fitting a boiler or the removal of asbestos, it needs to be left to professionals, not only for your safety but for those around you too. If you ever wondered why it has to be a professorial to remove asbestos, read on to find out why.

Protective gear

These who remove asbestos don’t wear any old protective gear, they tend to use face masks that aren’t normally available to the general public.

Knowing the protocol

There are aspects of asbestos removal that only trained professionals understand and know how to do. This includes basic facts such as where and when to remove their protective clothing so that it doesn’t affect members of the public.

HSE Approval

Asbestos removal is one of the only business sectors that need a HSE license in order for companies to operate. This license proves they have a robust protocol for the removal of asbestos. You won’t get this assurance from any old handy man who says they can remove it for you.

Disposing

Tips and waste facilities don’t take asbestos from general members of the public, instead it needs to be taken to a specialist waste unit. Professional asbestos removal companies will know exactly where to take it and will already have an account with them.

Asbestos survey

Before you call an asbestos removal company, book an asbestos survey. Sometimes undamaged asbestos is better left in place. Other times a survey may reveal that it is damaged and does need to be removed. If you’re planning any renovations to your home it is advisable to have an asbestos survey to see if you’ll need it removed first. Only after a robust audit from professional surveyors should you then get in contact with asbestos removal experts.

As you can see, it’s imperative that should your asbestos survey find you do need it removing, you appoint audited professionals to do so. Not doing so can endanger your own health and the health of your loved ones.