Social Housing Management: Electrical Safety Awareness

I recently had an article published in the October 2018 edition of the Ignite magazine called ‘Electrical Safety Synergy’. The article was based on the content of this blog. The link for the article can be found here. The Ignite magazine is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in electrical safety, gas safety or asset management and compliance.

Electrical Safety Synergy

Social housing staff can play a valuable role in achieving high standards of electrical safety. In this blog I will assess the value of harnessing the wider team within the social housing context.

Keeping tenant’s safe and delivering effective electrical compliance is a top priority for all social landlords. Having effective and well communicated organisational procedures will be the foundation that any maintenance team will work to, but the wider team can also play a vital role. As many AGSM and AESM members can attest, one of the main challenges within social housing in regards to safety compliance is gaining access to properties. This makes it all the more important to work closely with the wider team to facilitate access and to gain valuable feedback of the condition of properties.

A variety of staff will be in and out of properties or in daily contact with tenants, such as Housing Officers, Income Officers, Estate Officers, Maintenance Operatives, Call Centre Staff and Voids Officers. This gives ample opportunity to intervene or simply give advice to tenants on a variety of issues.

Having a basic awareness of electrical safety will allow staff to pick up on and report issues before an accident can occur. In some cases tenants will not call in with repairs. This can be for a number of reasons but generally speaking if the tenant is living in desperate conditions, the last thing they will think of is to pick up the phone to call in a broken switch or socket.

damaged socket

Whilst carrying out a stock condition survey, fire risk assessment update or void inspection there will be plenty of opportunity to visually inspect the condition of the electrical installation. However any member of staff who is visiting a property should have a level of awareness and the confidence to be able to report on repairs they may come across. Some in-house training or external training such as CORGI’s Level 2 Electrical Safety Awareness in Social Housing would be a good starting point for staff.

Below is a short video which identifies the common parts of an electrical installation and details some of the things that housing staff can look out for when in a property. This is by no means exhaustive but gives an idea of some of the things to keep an eye out for.

Some of the main things that anyone could look out for would be as follows:

  • Wear and tear / deterioration
  • Breakages or damage
  • Missing parts (covers, screws, labels)
  • Loose fixings
  • Signs of overheating
  • Ensuring previously reported defects have been rectified

Now just to be clear, this is not a recommendation for non-maintenance staff to be interacting with installations. It is however a good thing to stay ‘switched on’ to the dangers that might be present in a property. Maintenance surveyors may feel more confident to check the test button on an RCD or test the functionality of a mains switch.

Tenants themselves have a valuable part to play as well from reporting repairs to being aware of the dangers of faulty appliances or overloading sockets. Some common dangers that are directly attributable to the tenant lifestyle and choices could include:

  • Cluttered electrical cupboards
  • Inappropriate storage and charging of mobility scooters in sheltered courts
  • Use of cheap foreign unregulated electrical goods
  • Running extension cables to outbuildings
  • Unqualified individuals carrying out unauthorised electrical alterations
  • Bypassing the electrical meter

clutter

A greater awareness may allow staff to recognise and identify basic hazards whilst in a property and then relay this information on allowing for preventative maintenance. Having a good electrical policy and procedure will stand any organisation on good stead. Buttressing this with staff that know what to look out for and feel confident to raise concerns as they arise will certainly contribute to a high standard of electrical safety in socially rented properties.

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