How to manage fire safety in social housing

  • With around 174 building fires every day in the UK, social housing providers should be aware of their main fire safety duties and requirements
  • We look at what social housing providers can do to minimise or avoid fire risks
  • Zurich Municipal has produced two guides to help housing providers manage fire safety and fire prevention

Fires are a big problem in the UK, with an average 174 fires in buildings every day, and annual fire-related property insurance claims touching £1 billion.

Housing providers, owners, landlords and agents have a duty of care to provide adequate levels of fire safety for their residents and surrounding neighbours and buildings. But a 2014 study by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme showed that almost half of those responsible for maintaining fire safety in multi-occupancy buildings are simply unaware of their legal obligations.

In 2013-14, there were 219 fatalities in accidental dwelling fires in England; an increase from 168 a year earlier. A 2011 study by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association and the Chartered Institute of Housing found that three-quarters of all social housing blocks were potentially unsafe in a fire.

In July 2009 six people died after a fire in a south London tower block. Lessons learned from that tragedy continue to be relevant to social housing providers.

Tips for managing fire risk

Fire risk assessments are essential to help housing providers identify what they need to do to prevent fires and keep people safe.

  1. A thorough assessment should identify fire hazards and people at risk; evaluate, remove or reduce these risks; and record the findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training. The fire risk assessment, which must be carried out by a competent person, should be reviewed and updated regularly.
  2. Fire doors within communal areas are considered a critical element within multi-storey and high-rise blocks for limiting fire spread throughout a building. Negligent landlords can receive large fines or even prison sentences if there is a fire door failure.
  3. When it comes to prevention, it is essential that all electrical appliances and equipment are properly installed, maintained and inspected, to help minimise the risk of fire. According to government fire statistics, the main cause of accidental fires in communal buildings remains faulty appliances and leads, followed by misuse of electrical equipment or appliances.
  4. Similar prevention regimes should apply to gas safety, as well as to managing contractors and hot works. Arson can also be an issue for social housing; particularly in areas of high anti-social behaviour.
  5. More general precautions – such as the inclusion and regular maintenance of fire extinguishers, fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and safe storage of flammable liquids and waste control – should also be adhered to.

We have produced two useful guides to help customers deal with fire safety management, and fire prevention and risk control measures.

We are always happy to explain to customers the full extent of your fire duties and how to satisfy them. Contact info@zurichmunicipal.com for more information.