Social landlords urged to adopt new voluntary carbon monoxide safety standard

Carbon monoxide detectorScotland’s social landlords could do more to prevent fire, gas and carbon monoxide (CO) fatalities and injuries, a new report has concluded.

The practical health and safety guide published, jointly by HouseMark Scotland and River Clyde Homes, found that while social landlords have a good record in the past, more could be done to protect residents.

Entitled ‘Fire, Gas and Carbon Monoxide Safety Regulations: What Scottish social landlords need to know’, the new report is the first to bring together guidance on all relevant regulations in one comprehensive document. It reports that there were 29 deaths and around 1,100 injuries recorded as a result of fires in dwellings during 2013/14 compared to 76 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries recorded in 2004/5. Data on carbon monoxide poisoning is less comprehensive but Health Protection Scotland recorded 54 such incidents between 2002 and 2015.

The report acknowledges that awareness and management of risk related to fire, gas and CO poisoning has improved significantly in recent decades, particularly in the social housing sector. But it goes on to say that, although reported incidents, injuries and fatalities have fallen consistently over the past 30 years, the numbers are still too high.

The report highlights considerable variations in the way fire, gas and CO risks are managed across the industry and calls for a more consistent approach.

In particular, the guide points out that there is no comprehensive requirement on housing association and local authority landlords to install CO alarms in their properties despite this now being a requirement for private sector landlords. It recommends that social landlords should adopt these new CO safety standards on a voluntary basis to avoid them having to be enforced via new regulations.

Other main recommendations included in the guide are:

  • Landlords should review their risk assessments in terms of the installation of CO alarms
  • Social landlords can benefit from new technology – particularly when preventing CO poisoning
  • An MOT-style approach to gas safety checks would be helpful and is likely to be introduced in the near future
  • Landlords can do more to inform tenants of the risks of CO poisoning
  • Rationalisation of health and safety regulations could improve residents’ safety
  • The report also includes practical case studies from River Clyde Homes on health and safety compliance, from North Lanarkshire Council on gas maintenance access and from Southside Housing Association on fire management. Wheatley Group has also contributed a case study which outlines the process it has put in place to ensure 100 per cent of its dwellings have a valid gas safety certificate.

    CO guide reportGary Wilson, director of property & business development at River Clyde Homes, said: “Health and safety is an absolute priority for social landlords. As demonstrated by the various case studies included within this report, the sector has a good record in avoiding fire, gas and CO fatalities and injuries. But there is always more that could be done to make additional improvements and to mitigate risks still further.

    “Social landlords can show leadership within their communities by effectively communicating to residents the dangers posed by fire, gas and carbon monoxide and how best to manage and mitigate these risks.”

    Head of HouseMark Scotland, Kirsty Wells, said: “This guide sets out the current responsibilities of Scotland’s landlords in the social and private sectors when it comes to managing fire, gas and CO safety. It examines the existing rules and regulations and sets out some key issues for social landlords to consider. We believe it is unique in bringing these together into a single document for the first time.

    “As the case studies included within the report demonstrate, there are already many excellent examples of good practice within the social housing sector which other providers will hopefully be inspired to emulate in future.”

    Kirsty Wells added: “Hopefully, landlords will find the guidance and recommendations contained in this report both practical and useful. Implementing them will help to ensure better management of the risks around fire, gas and carbon monoxide and further ongoing reductions in the number of deaths and injuries recorded each year.”

    Procurement for Housing (PfH), a dedicated procurement services provider to the housing sector, is currently seeking input from social landlords to support the development of a new portfolio of procurement framework agreements in health and safety compliance. Any organisations interested in helping to shape the scope and design of these agreements is encouraged to contact PfH Scotland directly for more information.

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