Focus on Fire, Legionella, Asbestos and Electrical

Having an awareness of responsibilities and legal requirements in other non-gas related areas is crucial for Gas Managers, as their work will often be closely linked to Fire, Legionella, Asbestos and Electrical issues.

Ian Softley, Managing Director of SaferSpaces focused on Asbestos, Fire and Legionella and commented: “Asbestos is the biggest occupational health problem ever encountered in the UK. Over ten million tonnes of asbestos have been imported into the UK and over three million buildings still contain some form of asbestos. Currently over 4,000 people a year die from asbestos related diseases and is expected to peak at over 5,500 per year by 2025. These deaths are caused by breathing in the microscopic fibres released from asbestos-containing materials when they are disturbed. Anyone who invades the fabric of the building, services or equipment is at risk of disturbing asbestos. Working with these buildings is covered by Health & Safety legislation, Asbestos Regulations and many guides to dealing with these situations, with which you should be familiar.”

“All buildings should have a Fire Risk Assessment,” continued Ian, “both for normal occupancy and for any temporary operations that are being carried out. When you install a new heating system, the Fire Risk Assessment must be reviewed and any changes in risk must be considered at the planning stage.”

Ian also discussed the impact of Legionella, which is a bacteria normally found naturally in Rivers, Lakes and Soil: “There are 300 – 400 reported cases a year in the UK, although only about 1% of those exposed to infectious levels actually catch the disease. Once admitted to hospital, about 30% of cases are fatal. When infected water droplets become airborne, they can be inhaled deep into the lungs where the bacteria grow and create a Pneumonia-like illness in the lungs. The key requirements and actions are to have comprehensive risk assessments, a monitoring and control programme and comprehensive records. The temperature of water in systems can play a key role as Legionella will only grow between 20 and 50 degrees C.”

Speakers also tackled the hidden perils of poor Electrical installations. “The average age of distribution assets is 40 years with the recommended period for re-wires being 25 years. The assets degrade over time so inspection and testing is essential.”

Also discussed were the numerous pieces of legislation that effect electrical installation work. Highlighted were The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 which stipulated that all electrical installations need to be safe to use at all times – failure to comply can result in prosecution. “You need to know your asset base. You need to check the competence of suppliers and check documentation against real life installations. All buildings need an Electrical test certificate or an Electrical Installation Condition Report, which will highlight any remedial work that is needed. Work should only be carried out by registered or approved electricians and you should check that your Contractors have the correct qualifications for the work.”