The realm of property management is a multifaceted one, filled with both opportunities and challenges. In light of the PMA Awards, this article illuminates these challenges and unveils the award-winning strategies that have propelled property management companies to gain recognition and attain excellence in their field.
Remaining Compliant in Health and Fire Safety
Regular Health, Fire, and Safety Risk Assessments
Legislation underscores the necessity for "regular" health, fire, and safety risk assessments to uphold building safety standards. The term "regular" signifies that these assessments must be conducted at recurring intervals to adapt to changing circumstances and to address potential safety concerns as they evolve over time. These intervals may vary depending on the previous reports and the nature of the property.
On top of that, once you have read through the risk assessment report and have embarked upon the actions, you will need to demonstrate that you are managing the risks outlined. This should be done in order of priority. If an enforcement officer were to review the safety of your building and see a health, safety, and fire risk assessment that was completed in the months beforehand, they would likely ask you how you have managed the hazards and legal non-compliances identified within it. At this point, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you have been taking some actions towards achieving compliance.
Additionally, maintaining detailed records of assessments and implementing the recommended safety measures are crucial steps in the journey toward legal compliance and, most importantly, ensuring the well-being of everyone within the building.
Regular Fire Door Inspection
The safety of building occupants is of paramount importance. For buildings exceeding 11 meters, tenant fire door inspections should be conducted at least annually, and communal fire door inspections should occur quarterly. While the inspection may be carried out by a competent person and not necessarily a company, it remains a vital aspect of fire safety. For buildings under 11 meters, the responsible person(S) still has a duty to implement general fire precautions. This includes ensuring that all fire doors, including flat entrance doors, are equipped to offer sufficient protection.
Resident engagement strategies
In the era of the Building Safety Act, fostering strong resident engagement is a pivotal responsibility. Property managers, as the responsible party, must ensure the presence of a resident engagement strategy that provides residents with easily understandable fire safety information. Various strategies can be adopted, but a highly recommended approach is the use of personalized Fire Safety Information (FSI) Posters. The posters are designed to contain all the vital information and ensure you remain compliant with the Fire Safety (England) Regulations. These can be prominently displayed in communal areas for tenants to see. This strategy also promotes a sense of community and shared responsibility for building safety.
Stagnant Water Systems
One of the persistent challenges in property management lies in safeguarding water systems against the insidious threat of Legionella. Stagnant water, often found in underutilized buildings, serves as a breeding ground for this bacterium. The award-winning response is to implement a routine flushing protocol during low-occupancy periods. This simple yet effective practice ensures that water keeps flowing, preventing stagnation and mitigating the risk of Legionella growth.
The primary method used to control the risk of Legionella is water temperature control.
The HSE states that:
- Hot water storage cylinders (calorifiers) should store water at 60°C or higher
- Hot water should be distributed at 50°C or higher (thermostatic mixer valves need to be fitted as close as possible to outlets, where a scald risk is identified).
- Cold water should be stored and distributed below 20°C.
A competent person should routinely check, inspect and clean the system, in accordance with the risk assessment.
Thermostatic Mixing Valves
TMVs should only be employed in settings where vulnerable individuals, such as those in disabled facilities, schools, or hospitals, are at risk of scalding. Proper use of TMVs involves ensuring they are fail-safe, undergo regular filter cleaning, and meet stringent safety standards. These valves play a specific role in preventing scalding rather than serving as the primary method for controlling water temperatures to prevent Legionella growth. Regular monitoring and adjustments remain crucial for maintaining a safe water environment in buildings.
To conquer Legionella, property managers must develop a comprehensive water quality management plan. This plan encompasses regular cleaning, disinfection, and educational efforts to prevent the formation of biofilm and maintain consistently high water quality standards. It's a holistic approach that ensures the safety and well-being of those within the building.
Identification and Assessment
Large amounts of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were used for a wide range of construction purposes until the use of asbestos was banned in 2000. These asbestos-containing materials will need to be identified and managed to ensure they do not present a risk to people who may come into close contact with them. The initial step is to carry out an asbestos management survey which needs to be carried out by a certified asbestos surveyor. The purpose of this survey is to locate, as far as reasonable, the presence and extent of any suspect asbestos-containing materials in the building that could be damaged or disturbed during normal occupancy, including foreseeable maintenance and installation, and to assess their condition.
All employees, particularly maintenance and facilities staff, should receive asbestos awareness training.
This training should cover the following topics:
- Understanding the risks and how to avoid asbestos exposures.
- Safe work practices when dealing with asbestos or suspected asbestos materials.
- Reporting procedures for asbestos-related concerns.
Safe Handling During Renovations
Should you embark on a renovation journey within your building, awareness of the asbestos status is paramount. Renovations can proceed smoothly if the part of the building to be renovated does not contain asbestos, an up-to-date asbestos survey is available, and contractors are duly informed about asbestos presence to prevent any disturbance. If asbestos is detected in the area requiring renovation, its safe removal should precede any further construction activities.
To maintain compliance with legislation, annual asbestos re-inspections are a must. These assessments allow for the safe monitoring of asbestos and its condition, ensuring ongoing safety and adherence to the law.
If you are planning on taking on any intrusive/extensive works inside or outside a building built before 2000 then a refurbishment and demolition survey (R&D) will be required. This can be for big projects like roof replacements and boiler room works to smaller projects like kitchen and bathroom replacements, but the list goes on. A refurbishment and demolition survey is used to locate and describe, as far as reasonably practicable, all ACMs in the area where the refurbishment work will take place or in the whole building if demolition is planned. The survey will be fully intrusive and involve destructive inspection, as necessary, to gain access to all areas, including those that may be difficult to reach.
Excellence in building safety is not only an achievement but a commitment to the well-being of all occupants, and these strategies help ensure you stay on the right path.
This article was written by the 4site Consulting team.