CDM – Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) came into force in Great Britain on 6 April 2015. These Regulations supersede the CDM Regs 2007. They set out what people involved in construction work need to do to protect themselves from harm and anyone the work affects.

Whatever your role in construction, CDM aims to improve health and safety in the industry by helping you to:

  • sensibly plan the work so the risks involved are managed from start to finish
  • have the right people for the right job at the right time
  • cooperate and coordinate your work with others
  • have the right information about the risks and how they are being managed
  • communicate this information effectively to those who need to know
  • consult and engage with workers about the risks and how they are being managed
  • CDM 2015 is subject to certain transitional arrangements, for construction projects that began before 6 April 2015 and continue beyond that date.

Virtually everyone involved in a construction project has legal duties under CDM 2015. These ‘dutyholders’ are defined as follows.

Client – Anyone who has construction work carried out for them. The main duty for clients is to make sure their project is suitably managed, ensuring the health and safety of all who might be affected by the work, including members of the public. CDM 2015 recognises two types of client:

  • commercial clients have construction work carried out as part of their business. This could be an individual, partnership or company and includes property developers and companies managing domestic properties
  • domestic clients have construction work carried out for them but not in connection with any business – usually work done on their own home or the home of a family member. CDM 2015 does not require domestic clients to carry out client duties as these normally pass to other dutyholders

Designer – An organisation or individual whose work involves preparing or modifying designs, drawings, specifications, bills of quantity or design calculations. Designers can be architects, consulting engineers and quantity surveyors, or anyone who specifies and alters designs as part of their work.  They can also include tradespeople if they carry out design work. The designer’s main duty is to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction work, or in the use and maintenance of the building once built. Designers work under the control of a principal designer on projects with more than one contractor.

Principal designer – A designer appointed by the client to control the pre-construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal designer’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when most design work is carried out.

Principal contractor – A contractor appointed by the client to manage the construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal contractor’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when all construction work takes place.

Contractor – An individual or business in charge of carrying out construction work (eg building, altering, maintaining or demolishing). Anyone who manages this work or directly employs or engages construction workers is a contractor. Their main duty is to plan, manage and monitor the work under their control in a way that ensures the health and safety of anyone it might affect (including members of the public). Contractors work under the control of the principal contractor on projects with more than one contractor.

Worker – An individual who actually carries out the work involved in building, altering, maintaining or demolishing buildings or structures. Workers include: plumbers, electricians, scaffolders, painters, decorators, steel erectors and labourers, as well as supervisors like foremen and chargehands. Their duties include cooperating with their employer and other dutyholders, reporting anything they see that might endanger the health and safety of themselves or others. Workers must be consulted on matters affecting their health, safety and welfare.

 Transitional arrangements

CDM 2015 recognises that there will be construction projects that start before the Regulations come into force on 6 April 2015 and continue beyond that date.  For these projects, the following transitional arrangements apply.

Where there is, or is expected to be, more than one contractor on a project:

  •  where the construction phase has not yet started and the client has not yet appointed a CDM co-ordinator, the client must appoint a principal designer as soon as practicable
  • if the CDM co-ordinator has already been appointed the client must appoint a principal designer to replace the CDM co-ordinator by 6 October 2015, unless the project comes to an end before then
  • in the period it takes to appoint the principal designer, the appointed CDM co-ordinator should comply with the duties contained in Schedule 4 of CDM 2015.  These reflect the duties placed on CDM co-ordinators under CDM 2007 rather than requiring CDM co-ordinators to act as principal designers, a role for which they may not be equipped

Other transitional arrangements are:

  •  pre-construction information, construction phase plans or health and safety files provided under CDM 2007 are recognised as meeting the equivalent requirements in CDM 2015
  • any project notified under CDM 2007 is recognised as a notification under CDM 2015
  • a principal contractor appointed under CDM 2007 will be considered to be a principal contractor under CDM 2015

In all other circumstances, the requirements of CDM 2015 apply in full from 6 April 2015.

Fire Doors – Why they are so important.

This article was published recently in Construction Manager a website of the CIOB. Correctly specified, installed and maintained, fire doors SAVE lives. Don’t gamble with fire safety, it WILL catch you out when you least expect it and when you are least prepared!

 

Why fire doors are so important?
• What to look out for when specifying them
• What the Building Regulations say

The Lakanal House disaster is a stark reminder of the dangers of fire in buildings – and the importance of correctly specifying and installing key products. John Fletcher explains what to look out for when it comes to fire doors.

Photograph: David Askham/Alamy

In July 2009, a terrible fire took hold in a 12-storey block of flats in Camberwell. Six people were killed and at least 20 people were injured. It was the UK’s worst tower block fire.

The inquest into the Lakanal House tragedy closed at Easter this year and legal action is continuing, so there is not much more that can be said at this stage about what went so badly wrong. However, a fire scientist from BRE was able to give some good insights into one of the areas of failure.

Commenting on the fire doors, he told the inquest: “The fire impacted on the front door and on the panel above the front door and on the boxing in under the stairs and on the escape door on to the corridor. The panel above the front door failed very quickly. The boxing in under the stairs failed within two to three minutes after being exposed to fire, and that happened at about 16.50 hours. The front door failed and collapsed into the corridor at about 17.19 hours.”

These facts are alarming and a stark reminder of the potential consequences of poor specification, installation or maintenance of a critical element in fire safety. To avoid a situation like this happening again, all building owners, contractors and construction managers will benefit from further understanding the role of fire doors as well as the demands of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, commonly known as the RRO.

The RRO replaced more than 70 pieces of previous fire legislation, including the old fire certificate. The law now firmly places responsibility for fire safety in commercial and public buildings, including the common parts of flats and houses of multiple occupation, to whoever has day-to-day control of the premises. Each business must appoint a responsible person, whether it be the owner, manager, facilities manager or an expert consultant, to manage the fire risk to the building, including protecting those using the premises and its immediate surroundings.

The emphasis of the RRO is on preventing fires and reducing risk. The Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for the legislation, divides all non-domestic buildings into 11 sections, producing a detailed guide for each. The guides are developed to inform the responsible person on how to comply with the RRO, by helping them to carry out a fire risk assessment of the building and identifying the fire precautions that need to be implemented. The guides are available for download at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/regulatoryreformfire

Why fire doors are so important

All of us who use or occupy any building have a right to expect that we will be safely protected should a fire break out. Fire doors are part of a building’s passive fire protection system, an essential requirement for all public buildings, offices and factories.

They are also a requirement in certain domestic situations, such as in flats, or where a door leads into an integral garage, or in any dwelling where there is a second floor habitable room such as loft conversions or a “room in the roof”.

All rooms in any of these situations are separated from other rooms, or “compartmented”, to keep any fire in the area in which it starts, to protect the occupants (and contents) of other compartments and to provide a safe, protected escape route. This subdivision slows down the spread of fire and smoke and allows occupants to either escape or wait for rescue within a protected area.

The walls, ceilings, entrances and exits are therefore designed to resist the fire for a specified period of time.

How to buy fire doors

Most doors are bought via builders’ merchants and distributors. But a fire door is actually a group of components that are required to perform correctly together in the event of a fire. These components include the door leaf, frame, seals and essential building hardware which are referred to in the door’s fire test evidence. Using the wrong components may have a significant impact on the overall performance of the fire door.

Correct signage is also required on all fire doors installed in non-domestic buildings. Signs should be put on both sides of the door and must clearly indicate that the door is a fire door and any further instructions required such as “Keep Closed” or “Keep Locked”.

Fire doors are rigorously tested and must be fitted with matching components

Doorsets or door assemblies?

Fire doorset BS EN 12519 provides the following definition: a “complete unit consisting of a door frame and a door leaf or leaves, supplied with all essential parts from a single source”. This means that a door leaf is factory pre-hung in its frame, with hinges, glazing system (glass, seal, bead and fixing), fire and (when required) smoke seals, and ironmongery. A fire doorset is a fully finished, engineered unit from a single manufacturer, with all components matched and pre-assembled in the factory and is covered by a single fire certificate. A whole doorset supplied in individual component parts for assembly on site is often referred to as a door kit.

Fire door assemblies BS EN 12519 provides the following definition: a “complete assembly as installed, including door frame and one or more leaves, together with its essential hardware supplied from separate sources”. This means that it is a fire door installation made up from loose, correct, compatible components — consisting of a door leaf, frame, architraves, glazing system, decorative finishes, seals, intumescents, ironmongery and door furniture, sourced from different suppliers and manufacturers, made up on site into the final door assembly. It is the only acceptable alternative to a fire doorset.

Is one better than the other? No. Properly certificated fire doorsets and fire door assemblies will have compatible components that meet the Building Regulations and will work in the event of a fire. So the decision depends on the user’s needs, budget and convenience.

What does matter, though, is that all the information relating to the fire doorset or assembly is handed over to the responsible person, since this will be necessary in future inspections and for any maintenance that may be required.

Fit for purpose?

Manufacturers often make claims that their products are tested and achieve a certain performance level. But there are three ways in which manufacturers can describe their compliance:

Self-declaration Where a manufacturer makes their own claim of conformity by stating that the door, doorset or door component “complies with” or is “designed to” or “tested to” a certain standard.

An increasing number of fire door manufacturers and component manufacturers are making such claims, but these are no guarantee that products will meet the right standards or that they will continue to do so.

Test certificate  A test certificate tells the purchaser that a company’s products have been tested and they have a certificate to prove it. But caution still needs to be taken with this information, as it provides only a snapshot of the product test.

Third-party certification Third-party certification tests and verifies a fire door’s design, performance, manufacturing process and quality assurance from manufacture to installation. The company is independently audited to ensure that all the management and manufacturing processes and systems are in place to ensure consistency with the product that was tested. The product is also subjected to regular scrutiny, with frequent testing taking place on standard products to ensure that the test wasn’t just a once-only event. In the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme, all manufacturers and companies that are licensed to cut an aperture and glaze doors are third-party accredited.

To ensure fire door safety, make sure you only specify or use third-party certificated and accredited doors, frames and components. Check that all components are compatible with the door’s test evidence. Check the certificate is relevant to the door and components that are fitted to the door. Never cut apertures on site.

Stick to the spec

Sadly, “value engineering” brings with it a whole set of new risks when it comes to fire safety. By compromising the original specification in any way, a fire door installation risks failure in the event of a fire. This is one of those areas where sticking to specification, and using only third-party certificated fire doors and components, will actually reduce risk and costs for the construction industry.

Minimum gap should be 3-4mm

There are four main areas where unwary construction managers and their clients may be most vulnerable:

Non-compliance with Building Regulation 38
Not all fire doors satisfy the Building Regulations in the way they might have done in the past.  Where a building is erected or extended, or has undergone a material change of use, and the RRO applies to that building or extension, Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations now requires that a package of fire safety information – “as built” information that records the fire safety design of the building or extension – must be assembled and given to the person responsible for the premises.

The fire safety information provided should include all fire safety design measures in appropriate detail and with sufficient accuracy to assist the responsible person to operate and maintain the building safely. Where a fire safety strategy or a preliminary fire risk assessment has been prepared, these should also be included.

The exact amount of information and level of detail necessary will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the building’s design. Appendix G of Approved Document B, Volume 2, 2006 edition (with 2007 and 2010 amendments) provides a guide for the type of information that should be provided which will depend on the complexity of the building. This information includes, among other details, the locations of:

  • Escape routes;
  • Compartmentation and separation;
  • Fire doors, self-closing doors and other doors with relevant hardware such as panic locks;
  • Specifications of any fire safety equipment, in particular routine maintenance schedules;
  • Any assumptions in the design of fire safety arrangements regarding building management.

Non-compliance with the RRO
Everyone involved in the life of a fire door, from its specification to maintaining it in use, is responsible for that product and its role in protecting property and saving lives. But increasingly it is the client, the building owner, who is receiving punitive fines and even jail terms for non-compliance with the RRO. Installing third-party certificated products, and then ensuring regular maintenance checks by a qualified fire door inspector, is the simplest way to comply with the RRO. Fortunately, the UK has Europe’s first fire door inspection scheme, FDIS, which can put you in touch with inspectors near you.

Lack of adequate insurance protection
Fire losses in the UK now run to £3.4m per day. Unsurprisingly, there is increasing scrutiny on building elements such as fire doors by insurers, brokers, surveyors and loss adjustors. Leading insurers follow
the advice of fire risk experts at RISCAuthority who now require all fire protection products to be third-party certificated and installed by adequately trained specialist installers. Clients are well advised to follow this advice too, to ensure adequate insurance protection and more affordable premiums.

Insufficient protection for life or property
Diligent fire door manufacturers work hard to design and test their products to ensure they perform in a specific way during a fire. Key to this point is that a fire door is not simply the door itself, but includes the associated ironmongery, windows, frame and seals. Any small change to any single component within this setup will impact upon the door’s performance. Attempt to save costs by fitting a fire door to an unspecified frame or to replace the ironmongery, for example, and the fire door will no longer be either compliant or fit-for-purpose.

John Fletcher is manager of the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme tel: 0844 209 2610 firedoor@bwf.org.uk

Fire doors and the Building Regulations

Approved Part B — Fire safety

Part B of the Building Regulations in England and Wales covers fire safety. The latest revision came into effect in April 2007 and is divided into two sections, differentiating between domestic and non-domestic buildings. Flats and apartments are now considered as non-domestic buildings. The Building Standards (Scotland) Technical Handbook takes a similar approach. In Northern Ireland, these issues are covered by Building Regulations Part E.

Part B identifies minimum fire resistance periods for various elements of construction, including fire doors. In a compartment wall that separates buildings, the fire door must match the fire resistance period of the wall containing the door with a minimum period of 60 minutes. In all other situations, a 30-minute fire door (FD30) is allowed. Part B also identifies the use of 20-minute fire doors (FD20) in some circumstances.

However, the BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme strongly recommends that any fire door should be designed to last a minimum of 30 minutes, so FD20 is no longer manufactured by its member companies.

Approved Document E — Sound resistance

This document explains the minimum sound resistance performance recommended for buildings of multiple occupancy. Where a door separates the occupants of a building, for example the front door of an apartment, the door must maintain the sound performance requirements. Sound performance of a fire door is generally based on the weight, with higher density materials giving more resistance to sound. Acoustic seals may be required on a fire door, including at the threshold.

Approved Document F — Ventilation

In domestic buildings, a ventilation gap totalling 7,600mm² is recommended at the threshold of the door, to allow air movement throughout the building. This measurement is taken from the highest finished floor covering to the bottom edge of the door. For a 762mm wide door, this represents a 10 mm gap, (reducing to 8mm for a 926mm wide door). This can be achieved by making an undercut of 10mm above the fitted floor finish. The gap is likely to be around 3mm for smoke control doors (denoted with an “S” suffix). For non-domestic buildings, the ventilation requirements are likely to be the responsibility of the heating and ventilation designer. However, it is always very important to check the threshold gap details in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Approved Document L — Conservation of fuel and power

Where a fire door divides a heated and unheated area,
it will be required to provide a thermal performance (energy efficiency) that will control the heat leakage. Examples of this are flats with doors leading to common corridors, integral garages or external doors.

Approved Document M — Access to and use of buildings

This document introduces a number of recommendations to improve access to and movement through buildings for disabled persons, including minimum door widths, the use of visual contrasts between doors and their surroundings, minimum opening forces and the provision of vision panels.

Approved Document N — Glazing safety

Safety glass is required in a fire door when located under 1,500mm from floor level or if the smaller dimension of the glazing area is greater than 250mm. This applies to both domestic and non-domestic buildings.

 

With thanks to Construction Manager. Visit their excellent website at www.construction-manager.co.uk. 

Landlords and agents are ‘failing tenants over gas safety’

A recent article posted in The Guardian (9th May 2013) highlighting an issue that affects many people not just tenants!! Annual gas checks are a MUST for anyone with a gas appliance or boiler to ensure your and family’s safety. If you are a landlord….beware! You are breaking the law!

 

Despite the law requiring a gas safety certificate to be issued annually, Shelter says one in 10 landlords and agents have not carried out a check for more than a year

A blue gas flame

Simple gas safety tests tenants should be aware of include checking that pilot lights and other flames burn blue. Photograph: Bob Elsdale/Getty Images

As many as one in 10 landlords and letting agents could be putting their tenants’ lives at risk by failing to carry out compulsory gas safety checks, according to Shelter.

The housing charity, in conjunction with British Gas, asked more than 4,000 private tenants in England about the last time their landlord or letting agent carried out a check of their boiler for, among other things, a carbon monoxide leak. One in 10 said a check had not been carried out in their home for more than a year.

The law states that a gas safety certificate must be issued annually for each rented property. Gas safety checks can pick up a range of problems including faulty boilers, and are vital in helping to prevent gas leaks, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning – all of which can kill.

“It’s shocking to think that in thousands of households across the country there are accidents waiting to happen because a simple safety check has not taken place,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb. “For households with children this is an even bigger concern. Renters have a right to know that the property they are living in is safe.”

Shelter cited the case of one tenant, Susan, and her 15-year-old daughter who have been living in their privately rented home for 11 years. Despite continual requests, no gas safety certificate was issued for the property until two years ago. During this time they had three gas leaks and long periods with no central heating or hot water.

“It is really horrible not to feel safe in your own home,” Susan said. “We had several gas leaks before we finally got a gas safety certificate, and now I’m having to fight all over again for the next one.”

The housing charity also found that one in seven (15%) landlords was unaware of their legal responsibility to make sure their properties have an annual gas safety check and certificate. Landlords who fail to meet gas safety regulations in the homes they rent can face fines and even imprisonment.

Research in 2012 from Gas Safe, the organisation that registers gas engineers to work on appliances in the UK, revealed widespread confusion about what the key symptoms are of carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than half of those questioned wrongly thought that a funny taste in the mouth indicated carbon monoxide poisoning, while a third thought a cough and 29% thought a sore throat were symptomatic. In fact the key symptoms are headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness.

Andy Maddocks, a British Gas engineer, said simple gas safety tests that households could carry out include looking for signs of staining, sooting or discolouration on or around gas boilers, fires or water heaters, and checking that pilot lights and other gas flames burn blue.

Fire safety precautions in houses of multiple occupation (HMO) and shared houses.

 

This article is relevant to some of the projects we undertake. The content is courtesy of (and copyright of) HMO Daddy. See link to their excellent website at the end of the article.

I have, for a long time wrestled with the point of the fire safety precautions e.g. fire doors, fire alarms etc., required by the Local Authority Housing Standard Departments (HSD) for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Apart from blatant risks , namely, leaving cans of petrol in the hall and the insignificant costs such as fitting stand alone battery operated smoke detectors (which the Fire Service are giving them away free of charge or can be purchased for as little as £2.50p each). I would also ban chip pans and smoking; as, if you believe the statistics, over half of fires in HMOs are caused by chip pans and most fire deaths are caused by smokers.

 

My issue is I cannot find any evidence of the effectiveness of the fire precautions imposed by HSDs.
If you apply a rational evidence based approach, where is the evidence that shows that the fire precautions HSDs impose on HMO landlords have any effect? Nowhere can you find statistics to show that more deaths are caused in unprotected HMOs than protected HMOs. I once spoke to an HSD officer who told me he estimated that 90% of HMOs in their area were unknown to him – if they are unknown, how they could estimate this – I don’t know. When I asked him about all the fire deaths and injuries which resulted from these presumably unprotected HMOs, he could not answer. He could not identify one death in an unprotected HMO; though there had been a number of deaths in HMOs in his area which had fire precautions and yet, strangely enough, this was the reason that this authority aggressively enforced fire standards. I am still trying to understand that logic.
We are not talking about small costs involved in fitting the fire precautions required by HSDs; from experience I find it costs between £5k to £10k,  depending on the property and your ability to source reasonably priced tradesmen to bring an average 6 bed HMO up to the standard HSDs require.  This is not an insignificant amount and I believe should have demonstrable benefits before being imposed.

 

Neither am I talking about very large HMOs, such as hotel size properties or HMOs which house high risk occupants since the dynamics are very different with these types of properties; I am talking about house shares or up to 6 room properties let to professionals, working people or those who are capable of working.

 

HSDs will often say it is the law that stipulates that HMOs have fire precautions – but is this true? There are 3 pieces of legislation which I can find governing this area:

 

1. The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) SI 2006 no 373 schedule 3 Paragraph (5) states that a licensed HMO (generally, this is a property which has 3 or more storeys let to 5 or more occupants who share facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen) must have:
‘Appropriate fire protection facilities and equipment must be provided of such type, number and location as it is considered necessary’

 

2. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which requires an evidence based assessment to be made of the risk to occupants including the risk from fire and action taken to reduce this risk.

 

3. The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 which requires a fire risk assessment to be made of the common parts of HMOs and presumably the risk identified acted upon.

 

All this legislation is very vague and nowhere does it state you must have fire doors on all rooms and a Level 1 Grade A fire alarm (fire alarm with control panel) these being the most expensive items which are generally required in HMO properties. I have not included emergency lighting as it is relatively cheap to install, though I think it is pointless as the odds of a fire and a power failure are remote and the tenants who live in the property will be familiar with the layout of their home so do not need emergency lighting to find the exit should there be a power failure.

 

It gets even better (or worse) let’s examine what these expensive pieces of kit do. A fire door will, if properly fitted and closed, stop a fire breaking through the door for 30 minutes and prevent smoke spreading through the door jams. Very good, but an ordinary solid door will stop a fire for a good 20 minutes and prevent most of the smoke from spreading – providing it is shut. Many fire officers have told me that with an average house fire you are either dead or out of the property within 10 minutes!

 

I am told the statistics show that most fire deaths in HMOs are the result of tenants, usually drunk, falling asleep while smoking. The fire door does not protect them, it may protect the other occupants from the spread of fire but for the occupant it is nothing more than a lid to their coffin. An ordinary door can pretty well do the same job and has the possible added benefit of allowing smoke to leak around it which along with the smoke detectors activating; warn the other tenants of the fire and possibly saving the poor tenant in the room from suffocation.

 

The effectiveness of a fire door in preventing the spread of fire and damage to the rest of the property is remarkable, as I have seen, a room can be totally destroyed by fire yet on the other side of the fire door there is no damage at all. However, an ordinary door does a reasonable job as well, if closed. Fire doors also offer much better sound insulation and are more robust. Most HMO landlords I know including myself say, ‘If you fit a door fit a fire door’. A fire door only costs about £20 but the cost alone is not an argument for making us fit fire doors.

 

The problem with retro fitting fire doors is the cost of fitting them, they need special door frames or existing frames need adapting; the amount of work involved in fitting them in an old house along with the door furniture can run to hundreds of pounds.  The major disadvantage of fire doors, apart from their cost, is that they are inconvenient for the tenants. They are heavy and, if door closures are fitted, can be noisy when they close.  Fire doors covering communal areas such as lounges and kitchens are usually propped open. The overhead door closures are often removed by the tenants. Such is the problem with door closures that a recent review of Building Standards suggested that door closures should no longer be required as they are so misused making them practically useless – this was not implemented.

 

All in all, I do not believe that fire doors do much to stop fire deaths which is their main purpose. It could be argued that they actually contribute to fire deaths in preventing the early detection of the source of the fire but I have no evidence to support this.
The next piece of expensive kit required is a fire alarm system. For some HMOs, depending on the whim of your Housing Standards Department, it needs to be a Level 1 Grade A system which has a fire panel by the front door, requires a professional installer to install and has to have a bi-annual service by a qualified engineer – the cost of which is not insignificant. It has no more benefits, in the event of a fire, than a much cheaper system costing one tenth of the price; it makes a noise when it detects a fire but is no better at detecting a fire than the cheaper versions!

 

So what is the benefit of having the expensive fire detection system? As I said at the beginning I would not argue against having some fire detection system, such as self contained battery operated smoke detectors (even better if they are wired into the mains  – as the batteries get removed), as it clearly does provide an early warning of fire and costs very little so the risk versus reward benefit is insignificant. If it costs nothing or very little and may have some benefit why argue against doing it or am I contradicting myself?

 

Again, like fire doors, fire alarms are not appreciated by tenants, often abused, deactivated and damaged. It is not uncommon to find the smoke detectors have been covered by a plastic bag, or a sock etc.

 

What is really needed, if fire protection for HMOs is required, is a fire protection system which is not prone to being abused by the tenants, and ideally from the landlord’s point of view costs less than the current fire protection advocated by HSDs and does a better job. It is not as if such a system does not exist, it does – it is called ‘Fire Sprinklers’ and if some over the top standards for fire sprinklers were relaxed they would, in most cases, surprisingly, cost less to install.
Fire sprinklers will not only detect a fire but will contain the spread of fire thereby reducing the damage caused by fire by up to 80%. But more crucially there has never been a death through fire in a property with a fully fitted sprinkler system, which is more than you can say about the current system, called passive fire protection, which is imposed on HMO landlords. Even with the expensive fire precautions required by HSDs, tenants will continue to die in HMO fires. There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding fire sprinklers which has been addressed in my article ‘How Landlords Can Save Lives and Money’ available free of charge on my website

 

The relevant authorities prefer the superior system, in high risk situations where they insist on the use of fire sprinklers but only as a bolt-on to the existing passive fire protection system, not instead of. Why? It is difficult to understand their standpoint if fire sprinklers do a better job and are cheaper. It seems that an irrational institutional thought pattern is in place which nobody seems to be able to break.

 

The industry standard of providing passive fire protection in HMOs results in nobody fitting fire sprinklers as they are not required by law; apart from me – I fit them whenever I refurbish a HMO, because as I said at the beginning of this article, there is little evidence, on a risk basis, to support the need for very much fire protection in HMOs.

To find out more about running your own HMO, get your FREE copy of “Beginners Guide To HMO’s And Multi-lets” now at http://www.hmodaddy.com