Standards


These pages look at the minimum standards that private rented properties should meet. The Cornwall Rental Standard can assist you in meeting this standard as a member of the scheme.

There are three main issues to consider when reviewing the bathroom of your property.

Falls in the bath

Any fall associated with a bath or shower, whether that fall is on the same level or from one level to another. Fall from baths are particularly associated with persons over 60 years of age.

Impact on health

  • Injuries from bath falls are cuts, lacerations, swelling, bruising and fractures.
  • Death may occur weeks or months after the initial injury. May be as a result of cardio-respiratory illness, including heart attack/pneumonia.

Causes

  • Slipping when getting in and out of a bath.
  • Difficult to reach taps, waste and other bathroom controls.
  • Inadequate space, heat and lighting in a bathroom can also increase falls.

Prevention

  • Baths and showers should be stable and well fitted
  • Slip resistant surfaces in baths and showers
  • Include features such as handles or grab rails
  • Having enough space to allow for dressing/undressing and drying without the risk of a fall.

Personal hygiene, Sanitation and Drainage

Risk of infection and threats to mental health. Associated with poor personal washing and clothes washing facilities.

Impact on health

  • Gastro-intestinal illness
  • Skin infections - rare occurrence
  • Severe dysentery (between 2,000 and 20,000 notified cases per annum)
  • Stress and depression

Causes

  • Too few facilities for the number of occupants
  • Cracks, chips and other damage to the surfaces of facilities
  • Hands in contact with WC seat/basin.
  • Discharge of untreated foul waste onto paths/gardens
  • Waste water discharged onto paths or gardens
  • Sharing facilities where there is infectious illness in households
  • Higher risk of infection because of higher ratio of people to facilities
  • Leaks may be unknown to the users but affect different dwellings in the same building.

Prevention

Personal hygiene
  • Adequate number of baths or showers for (potential) occupants
  • Bathroom/shower room to have privacy, heating, lighting and ventilation.
  • Adequate number of wash hand basins for occupants
  • Sinks connected to the waste drainage for each dwelling/household
  • Appropriate facilities for washing machine/clothes drying/adjacent power sockets/vent outlets.
Sanitation
  • installed WC basin with hinged seat and lid. Made of impervious and easy to clean material
  • WC connected to a working flushing system
  • WC connected to adequate drainage system
  • Number of WC closets adequate for the number of people in the dwelling (irrespective of age)
  • WC compartments separate from bathrooms
  • Bathrooms ventilated to external air
  • Lockable doors from inside to compartments/bathrooms but openable in emergency.
Drainage
  • Waste and surface water discharged into properly designed trapped drainage inlets/vertical drains. Connected to the main sewerage system.
  • Properly designed soakaways for private treatment or storage system for foul sewage
  • Systems connected to sewer

Legionella in the bathroom

Legionnaires' disease is a form of pneumonia. Caused by the inhalation of water droplets containing Legionella. All man-made hot and cold water systems could provide an environment where it can grow. The risks from residential hot and cold water systems are low. This is due to regular water usage and turnover of supply.

Consider the following before renting out a property:

  • flushing out the system.
  • avoiding debris getting into the system.
  • setting temperature controls to 60°C for hot water storage.
  • Remove any redundant pipework
  • consideration of standing water within the system. For example, student accommodation left empty over the summer vacation.

All landlords must have a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. They must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.

Impact on health

Carbon Monoxide reduces the inability of blood to take up oxygen. Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea. Exposure can cause increased chest pain in people with heart disease. A high concentration can cause unconsciousness and death.

Nitrogen dioxide affects the respiratory system and can aggravate asthma. There is an increased risk of bacterial and viral infection of the lung.

Sulphur dioxide can cause bronchitis and breathlessness as a result of open fires. It can also aggravate asthma.

Causes

  • Carbon monoxide produced by fuels containing carbon, gas and oil
  • Nitrogen dioxide produced by gas and oil burning appliances
  • Sulphur dioxide produced by oil and solid fuel burning appliances

All these result from an incomplete or improper combustion of the fuel.

Prevention

  • Proper installation and maintenance of gas/oil/solid fuel burning appliances
  • Adequate air supply for appliances
  • Proper sizing, siting and connection of flues
  • Adequate ventilation in rooms with such appliances
  • Regular maintenance of flues
  • Gas heating appliances fitted with flues for balanced flow of air
  • Ventilated lobby between integral garage and living accommodation
  • Properly sited and maintained carbon monoxide detectors

Dwellings should be free from rising and penetrating damp. They should be free from condensation dampness. They should have adequate damp proofing. Properties should have adequate provision of natural and mechanical ventilation.

If there is good insulation, has adequate heating and there is still a problem with black mould, it could be that occupiers are producing a lot of moisture. This could be from not heating the property enough or not opening the windows when cooking, taking a bath or drying clothes.


Impact on health

Exposure to damp and mould can cause adverse health effects in susceptible person. These are likely to cause respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system. The mental health and social effects of dampness and mould can not be underestimated.


Causes

  • Creating excess moisture from cooking, bathing and drying cloths
  • Poor heating
  • Lack of insulation
  • Poor ventilation

Prevention

  • Good heating system and a good level of thermal insulation
  • Low-level background heating
  • Changing the surface finish
  • Continuous low level background ventilation
  • Trickle vents into replacement windows, high level air bricks, or other passive ventilation
  • Mechanical ventilation or positive pressure ventilation system

Shock and burns resulting from exposure to electricity.

Impact on health

Mild tingling sensations to disruption of normal heartbeat, respiratory muscles, causing death. Can also cause burns.

Causes

  • By touching metal or other conducting material which is ‘live’.
  • High voltage passing across the body.
  • Current passing through the body to earth.
  • Deficiencies in plugs, leads, light fittings and appliances.
  • Touching mains wires or circuit, fuse or fuse boards.

Prevention

  • Electrical wiring installation meets the latest requirements.
  • Adequate number of sited electrical socket outlets
  • Accessible fuses and meters
  • Earthed electrical system
  • Installation maintained in good repair
  • Electrical installations not close to water, including areas of damp
  • Lightning Protection System kept in good repair.

Excess cold

Impact on health

Excessive cold can have a profound effect on health. Healthy indoor temperatures are around 21°C. There is small risk of health effects below 19°C. Below 16°C, the risks are increased for the elderly, including respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Below 10°C there is a greater risk of hypothermia. Cardiovascular conditions (e.g. heart attacks and stroke) account for 50 per cent excess winter deaths. Respiratory diseases (e.g. ‘flu, pneumonia, bronchitis) account for another third. Excess cold can also cause an increase in blood pressure and reduce resistance to infection. This is because of the effect of cold air on the bronchial lining and immune system. It can worsen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Causes

  • Sleeping in a cold bedroom
  • Poor insulation
  • Poor central heating or inefficient heating system
  • Excess damp

Prevention

  • Appropriate insulation
  • Appropriate, well maintained heating system
  • Low level ventilation
  • Suitable ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens
  • Air bricks
  • Double glazed windows

Excess Heat

Impact on health

Increase in thermal stress, cardio vascular strain and trauma, and  increase in strokes. Mortality increases in temperatures over 25 degrees. Although not common, problems can occur in the UK.

Causes

  • Lack of ventilation
  • Thermal capacity of a smaller building
  • Large areas of south facing glazing

Prevention

  • Shuttering or blinds to large south facing windows
  • Means of ventilation, natural or air conditioning
  • Controlled heating system

Falls between Levels

Impact on health

Physical injuries including bruising, puncture injuries, fractures, head/brain/spinal injuries. Extent of injury depends partly on distance fallen and the nature of the surface fallen upon.

Causes

  • The ease of opening windows, the distance they open, the height of the sill and the design of the opening light.
  • For windows above ground floor level, the ease of cleaning from inside.
  • Windows requiring extra strength to open.
  • Difficult to reach catches.
  • The distance of a window opening or balcony above ground level.
  • Features beneath the window. For example, railings and fences.
  • Of the fatal falls from windows, 50% are from bedrooms, and 50% are from other first floor windows.

Prevention

  • Safety catches will reduce the ease a child can open a window unsupervised.
  • Catches restricting the distance a window can open (up to 100mm) fitted above ground floor level.
  • Any opening limiter should be easy to over-ride by an adult in the event of an emergency.
  • A catch to at least one window in a room accessible to wheelchair users. The window should still have a restrictor.
  • Internal sills are at least 1,100mm from the finished floor level.
  • The height of glazing above floor level should be more than 800mm. Where there is any glazing less than 800mm from the floor level, it requires guarding or be safety glass. 
  • Increased safety precautions to upper storey windows. From the second floor upwards, glazing below 1,100mm from floor level needs guarding with a safety rail.
  • The design of the windows should allow safe cleaning of the outer surface. It should be such that there is no reason to climb on a chair or stepladder to clean it. A high level opening light should be cleanable on both sides without opening the main light.
  • Guarding provided to balconies and landings to prevent falls. It should be at least 1,100mm high and designed and constructed to discourage children climbing. It must be strong enough to support the weight of people leaning against it. There should be no openings to the guarding which would allow a 100mm sphere to pass through.

Falls on the level

Impact on health

  • Physical injury such as bruising, fractures, head, brain or spinal injuries.
  • Extent of the injury depends on distance of the fall and the kind of surface fallen on.
  • The health of an elderly person may deteriorate. Death after an initial fall injury can be cardio-respiratory.

Causes

  • How level is the floor, path or yard, its evenness and the state of maintenance.
  • Surface variations of 5mm to floors and of 20mm to paths increase the risk of a trip.
  • A lack of sufficient space to carry out tasks or manoeuvres.
  • Hard surfaces are more unforgiving than carpeted floors.

Prevention

  • Effective drainage of surface water to reduce ponding and in adverse weather, patches of ice.
  • Each room and part of a dwelling should have a layout which allows for the carrying out of tasks and manoeuvres.
  • Adequate lighting to identify any obstructions and any trip steps or projecting thresholds.
  • Artificial lights sited to avoid shadows and dark corners where users cannot see where they are going.
  • Switches or controls for lighting sited for ease of use.
  • In the common parts of multi-occupied buildings, floor coverings kept in good repair.

Falls on stairs and steps

Impact on health

Physical injury includes bruising, fractures, head/brain/spinal injuries, possible death. The nature of the injury is dependent upon the distance fallen, the age and fragility of the person and the nature of surface struck. Long term consequences may be cardiorespiratory issues, heart attack, stroke and/or pneumonia.

Causes

  • Variations in the rise and going of a flight are likely to increase the possibility of missteps.
  • Stairs consisting of straight steps with no winders or intermediate landings.
  • Length of the flight of stairs or ramp/slope may increase the seriousness of an injury and increase the distance fallen.
  • Small spiral stairs increase the likelihood of a fall if there is no inner handrail and where the stairs are less than 800mm wide.
  • Alternating tread stairs may also be hazardous, particularly in emergencies.
  • Accidents are more likely where the pitch of stairs is steeper. The steep pitch to stairs can result in a worse the impact from the fall.
  • The shape and dimension of nosings affect the likelihood of an accident.
  • Poor frictional quality of the tread surface can increase slips and missteps.
  • Stairs without carpet covering, including those intended to be uncovered.
  • No wall or guarding to one side of the stair.
  • Lack of any handrail, even if there is a wall to both sides of the stairs.

Prevention

  • Tread dimensions between 280mm and 360mm
  • Rise dimensions between 100mm – 180mm
  • Stair width between 900mm-1000mm
  • Pitch (angle) of stairs less than 42°
  • Consistency and uniformity in the rise and going of a flight. Except where there is an obvious change in direction e.g. use of winders
  • Nosing should not project more than 18mm beyond the riser
  • Treads and nosings should provide appropriate friction (carpet etc, if possible)
  • Provision of fitted carpet, rug, etc at foot of stairs to help cushion any possible impact
  • Openings in stairs or banisters should be less than 100mm
  • Avoidance of alternating treads, particularly those not conforming to current Building Regulations
  • Handrails or banisters provided to at least one side of the staircase
  • Handrails to be between 900mm and 1000mm measured from the top of the handrail to the pitch line or floor. They must be easy to grasp and extend the full length of the flight
  • Balustrading designed to prevent climbing
  • Provision landing and hallway space leading to the stairs (top and bottom) so user can check start/dimensions of stairs and steps
  • Adequate natural lighting to the top and foot of the flight
  • Adequate artificial light to the top and foot of the flight
  • Adequate and convenient means of controlling the artificial lighting
  • No glare from natural or artificial lighting
  • Avoid doors opening onto stairs or the head of the stairs. Obstructions and projections increase the likelihood of a fall
  • Avoidance of projections and sharp edges on stairs and glass or radiators at the foot of the stairs
  • All elements of stairs should be in good repair
  • Dwelling should be adequately heated and insulated to avoid impairment of movement and sensation

Threats from accidental uncontrolled fire and associated smoke.

Impact on health

More than 400 people die each year as a result of accidental fires with more than 11,000 injured. As well as burns, deaths can occur from gas, smoke or possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

Causes

An occupiers reaction to discovering a fire can influence their escape. Factors in the cause of fire can include:

  • Sources of ignition (cooking appliances/space heaters/electrical equipment)
  • Solid fuel as main fuel.
  • Electrical distribution equipment in poor condition

Prevention

  • Safe siting for cookers - away from flammable materials
  • Space heating - installation, servicing and maintenance
  • Enough electric socket outlets to prevent overloading and use of extension cables
  • Distribution boards and wiring - including Residual Current Devices
  • Fire stops to cavities including ventilation and heating systems
  • Design and construction of the building to limit the spread of fire/smoke
  • Fitting of internal doors, with self closers where needed
  • Furniture to meet current regulations
  • Servicing and maintenance of heat/smoke alarms
  • Siting of extinguishers and fire blankets (especially kitchen)
  • Means of escape, e.g. windows, protected staircase, etc.

What about HMOs?

  • More fires occur in flats than houses
  • Dwellings constructed after 1980 have a lower likelihood of fire
  • Dwellings constructed before 1920 have greatest likelihood of death or injury from fire
  • Risk increases with height of the building
  • Adequate means of escape from each dwelling
  • Interconnected fire detection/alarm system
  • Emergency lighting
  • Sprinkler systems

Keeping a dwelling secure against unauthorised entry and maintaining its safety.

Impact on health

The worry and fear tends to be caused by knowing people who have been burgled and by publicity about crimes. Includes injuries where the victim is attacked by the burglar (aggravated burglary).

Causes

  • Location – where local area has high levels of poverty and crime
  • Poor lighting around the doors and windows of a dwelling
  • Poor construction / fitting / disrepair to / inadequate locks
  • Lack of viewers to external doors
  • Lack of/broken security chains to external doors
  • Lack of/defective burglar alarm systems

Prevention

  • Design dwelling to reduce hiding places, as far as possible (e.g. fences etc.) for burglars and intruders
  • Well-lit and defined pedestrian routes
  • Dwelling made safe against unauthorised entry.
  • Window locks/dead locks
  • Security lights/indoor grilles
  • Spy holes/chains on entrance doors

Domestic hygiene, Pests and Refuse

Protection against infection resulting from:

  • Poor design, layout and construction of the dwelling so it is difficult to keep clean
  • Access into and harbourage within the dwelling for pests
  • Inadequate and unhygienic provision for storage and disposal of household waste.
  • Impact on health
  • From the spread of infection, allergic reactions, stress, food spoilage and nuisance.

Causes

  • Access to refuse storage areas for pests and domestic animals
  • Refuse not disposed of correctly
  • Holes around service ducts and pipes
  • Access to open drains by rodents
  • Access for rodents from ill-fitting doors and windows
  • Uneven and/or cracked internal walls and/or ceilings allowing access for pests
  • Disrepair to external walls and roof
  • HMOs are particularly vulnerable to certain kinds of insect pests.

Prevention

  • Buildings maintained to prevent a build-up of dirt and dust
  • Kitchens and bathroom surfaces should be cleanable and able to be maintained in a hygienic condition
  • Reduction of access points into buildings for pests
  • Cracks and unprotected holes filled in. Other methods used for protection if this is not possible
  • Service ducting to the roof and floor spaces sealed but with suitable access for treatment
  • Drain openings and WC basins sealed with an effective water tight seal
  • Drainage inlets for waste and surface water sealed
  • Any points in walls penetrated by pipes or cables sealed
  • Holes in roof coverings, eaves and verges repaired.
  • Necessary holes, such as vents, covered by grilles
  • Adequate and closed storage for refuse areas
  • Suitable storage for refuse within the dwelling
  • Storage to be accessible to occupants but not a danger to children
  • Refuse facilities should not cause hygiene problems.

Water Supply

The supply after delivery to the dwelling.

Impact on health

  • Gastro-intestinal illness associated with drinking water – (campylobacter/cryptosporidium)
  • Respiratory infection – Legionnaires Disease and acute Pnuemonia.

Causes

Contamination of water

Prevention

  • Pipework and storage facilities provided and maintained  
  • Plumbing systems to meet requirements of Water Supply Regulations 1999
  • Private drinking water supplies sampled and tested
  • Tanks covered to prevent ingress of contamination (i.e. birds/insects etc.)
  • Appropriate materials used for pipework/storage tanks/fittings
  • Proper maintenance of water filters and softening systems

Flames and Hot surfaces

Concerned with injuries from:

  • Burns caused by contact with a hot flame, hot objects or hot non-water based liquids
  • Scalds caused by contact with water-based liquids and vapours
  • Includes burns and scalds from spills during cooking or preparing hot drinks.

Impact on health

Over 200 people a year die from burn and scald injuries. About half the burn and scald injuries to young children happen in kitchens.

Causes

  • Hot surfaces of 70°C or more
  • Unguarded open flames – space or water heaters
  • Tap water too hot – above 60°C
  • No heat control taps or heat controlled mixer taps
  • Anti-scald fixtures incorrectly set
  • Poor layout of kitchen space, especially where the cooker is in the wrong place
  • Cooking area/kitchen not far enough from living or sleeping area

Prevention

  • The design and layout of the kitchen
  • The location of the cooker
  • The design and controls of heating appliances
  • Protection from any open flame to prevent clothing catching alight
  • Surfaces covered if the temperature is more than 70°C
  • Hot water should be no more than 60°C in kitchens, 41°C for hand basins and 46°C for baths.

What about flats and other multi-occupied buildings?

  • Risks increased with shared kitchens when people are using it at the same time.
  • Cooking facilities in a bedsit need to have enough distance between them and the sleeping area.
  • There should be an adequate number of electric sockets in the kitchen area to cut down the risks of scalds.

Food safety

Threat of infection from poor facilities for storage, preparation and cooking of food. Includes the lack of provision of a kitchen

Impact on health

Food poisoning ranging from mild stomach upset to death from infectious gastro-intestinal disease.

Causes

  • Damage to sinks and worktops preventing thorough cleaning
  • Damp affected surfaces - degrade and support growth of micro-organisms
  • Humid conditions can cause rapid decay of food
  • In HMOs - confusion over responsibility for kitchen cleanliness
  • In HMOs - higher risk of infection where higher number of people share facilities.

Prevention

Storage

  • Suitable storage for food to slow down deterioration and decomposition
  • Facilities should be of adequate size for the number of occupants
  • Space for food cupboards and refrigerator and freezer with appropriate sockets
  • Facilities have smooth impervious surfaces for easy cleaning and maintaining in hygienic condition
  • Separate shelves for different foods
  • Facilities should be cool and dry and protected from direct sunlight.

Preparation areas

  • Should be adequate sized sink(s) and drainer free from cracks, chips or other damage
  • Hot and cold running water
  • Suitable drainage for waste water
  • Suitable amount of work tops, with fixed, smooth, impervious surfaces and
  • easy to clean
  • At least four appropriate power sockets associated with the worktop(s) as well
  • as two for general use.

Cooking

  • Adequate size for the household with appropriate connections for fuel (gas or electricity)
  • Should be capable of being cleaned and maintained in hygienic condition.
  • Floor should be sound and impervious. Allow for easy cleaning and maintaining in a hygienic condition
  • Corners and junctions sealed and covered to avoid uncleanable junctions
  • Wall surfaces be smooth with impervious finish and easy to clean.
  • Joints between sink, drainer, worktop and adjacent wall sealed and water tight
  • Layout/relationship of facilities should ease the stages of preparation, cooking and serving
  • Adequate and appropriate lighting especially over the facilities
  • Suitable ventilation of whole of kitchen area, especially the cooking area.

Includes threats to physical and mental health associated with inadequate natural/artificial light. Also the psychological effect linked with the view through glazing from the dwelling.

Impact on health

  • Depression and psychological effects due to lack of natural light or lack of window with a view.
  • Stress caused by intrusive artificial external lighting at night.
  • Eye strain from glare and lack of adequate natural or artificial light.
  • Discomfort caused by certain types of artificial light.

Causes

  • The shape, position and size of windows and the layout of rooms all affect the amount of daylight.
  • Obstruction of the windows themselves, by other buildings or trees.
  • Location of the dwelling - wholly at basement or attic level. No views can lead to feelings of isolation.
  • Siting of external lighting (street lights and security lighting) can cause sleep disturbance.
  • Glare and shadows caused due to the positioning of artificial lighting

Prevention

  • The layout of the dwelling, particularly living rooms, kitchens, and recreation space
  • Adequate natural light during daylight hours. To enable normal domestic tasks to be carried out without eyestrain
  • Windows of adequate size and shape. Positioned to allow for reasonable daylight penetration into rooms
  • Adequate open space outside the window of basement and sub-ground level rooms. Allowing for light penetration
  • Positioning of artificial lighting. Domestic and recreational activities carried out without eyestrain. Does not create glare or shadows
  • Artificial light is particularly important in the kitchen. Particularly over worktops, sinks and cookers
  • Windows wide enough to provide for a reasonable view of the immediate surroundings
  • Sills in living areas should be low enough to allow a seated person a reasonable view. (Safety glass provided in vulnerable locations)
  • Window heads should be above the eye level of someone standing
    The view should provide for supervision of outside recreation space
  • For security purposes, a view of the means of access to the dwelling.

Asbestos

The presence of and exposure to asbestos fibres and Manufactured Mineral Fibres ((MMF). Includes rockwool and glass fibre blankets. White, blue and brown forms of asbestos fibres included.

Impact on health

  • These tend to occur a long time after first exposure.
  • Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause damage to the lungs and, at the more extreme, cancers.
  • Affect the protective membrane surrounding the lungs causing plaques and fibrosis.
  • They can also cause certain forms of lung cancer, including mesothelioma. MMFs are skin, eye and respiratory irritants and may cause dermatitis.

Causes

  • Part of a wide range of building products found in older houses and flats.
  • Located in places not likely to be disturbed.
  • Sprayed coatings and partitioning.
  • Chrysotile materials in positions at risk from damage or disturbance.
  • MMF used in loft and cavity wall insulation.

Prevention

  • Damaged or disturbed asbestos assessed for repair, sealing and enclosure
  • Removal by licensed contractors
  • Existing asbestos managed in situ
  • Keeping a record of asbestos location in the building
  • Protecting it from damage by occupants.
  • MMF minimal possible exposure to fibres during maintenance, installation and removal.

Biocides

Threats to health from chemicals used to treat timber and mould growth in dwellings.

Impact on health

The potential for harm to human health varies depending on the particular biocide.

Causes

  • Where biocides used incorrectly.
  • Where a dwelling becomes occupied before the fumes have dispersed.

Prevention

Use of biocides should avoided wherever possible. Treatment of the cause or underlying problem will make their use unnecessary.

Lead

  • There are two main sources inside dwellings – paint and water pipes.
    There may be traces in soil close to busy roads or from older or industrial buildings close by.

Impact on health

When lead is absorbed it builds up in the body. It can have toxic effects on the nervous system and blood production. It may have a detrimental effect on mental or intellectual development in children.

Causes

  • Lead paint on the inside and outside of older building
  • Lead water pipes in older buildings
  • Contamination of the soil

Prevention

  • If paintwork is completely sound, covering over old lead paint is a safer option than removal.
  • If the paintwork has deteriorated, removal will be necessary.
  • Proper precautions taken during paint removal to prevent ingestion of airborne lead particles. This will also prevent the settling of lead particles in the building or on surrounding land.
  • Lead pipework should not be present in dwellings. Installation of lead pipework is now prohibited in UK dwellings.
  • Leaded paints are no longer generally available.
  • EU legislation allows for the use of white lead in listed buildings.
  • There are legal limits for the levels of lead in drinking water and guidelines for levels in soil.
  • There is no UK guideline level for lead in house dust.

Radiation

The main source of harmful radiation in dwellings is from radon gas. Radon is colourless and odourless. It is not possible to detect it, either in the air or the water, without testing and measurement. Radon can dissolve in water. Airborne radon poses a more significant threat.

Impact on health

Potentially the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking. There is also a possibility of causing leukaemia/acute lymphatic leukaemia/skin cancer. Variations in radon gas exposure depend to a great extent on geographical location. Some regions are more affected by radon than others.

Causes

  • Natural sources account for 85% of the total exposure. The majority of which is from radon gas in buildings.
  • Radon dissolved in private water supplies is only found in significant quantities in areas where levels of radon gas are high.
  • While there is no completely safe level of radon, the risk is small where the average level of airborne radon is at or below 20 Bq m-3 .
  • Radon gas occurs naturally in the UK, but the amount varies from place to place. Concentrations tend to be highest where the underlying rock is granite.
  • Radon occurs naturally in very low concentrations. In confined spaces, it can build up and reach concentrations hazardous to health.
  • Indoor levels depend on the concentration of radon in the ground.
  • Levels affected by state of repair, level of heating and ventilation.
  • Radon levels can vary between similar houses, even those in the same street.
  • Lower atmospheric pressure within buildings draws radon gas in through holes, cracks and gaps in the floor. This occurs more with suspended timber floor. Any breaches of solid floors or damp proof membranes will allow the gas to enter the dwelling.
  • Open chimney flues (whether used or unused), can draw radon-rich air from under the dwelling.
  • Extractor fans can aggravate radon problems if a suitable air inlet is not provided.
  • Problems with radon gas typically affect the lower storeys of a building. Flats located above ground floor level tend to be less affected.
  • Radon is not found in major public water supplies at levels which pose a threat to health.

Prevention

  • For existing dwellings, a radon sump, a hollow under the floor with a low power fan to disperse the gas into the open air.
  • Increasing the air flow under timber floors.
  • Installing a whole house positive pressurisation system.
  • All new dwellings should achieve radon gas levels as low as is practicable. For existing dwellings in affected areas remedial measures should be adopted.

Fuel gas and other volatile compounds

Threat of asphyxiation from escaping fuel gas into the dwelling. Exposure to a range of organic chemicals (VOCs) following refurbishment of a property.

Impact on health

  • Inability to breathe leading to asphyxiation.
  • Short-term irritation and allergic reactions to the eyes, nose, skin and respiratory tract.
  • Higher concentrations resulting in headaches, nausea, dizziness or drowsiness and can aggravate asthma.

Causes

  • Defects to the gas installation or appliances.
  • Exposure to fumes from paints, glues, solvents, etc.

Prevention

  • Gas supplied by an authorised supplier. Standard composition and pressure.
  • There should be appropriate pressure regulators, meters and pipework.
  • Regular testing to ensure there are no leaks or other defects. In particular if there have been any alterations to the dwelling or to the gas installations.
  • Appliances installed, serviced and maintained by a competent person.
  • Adequate low level ventilation or means of ensuring any escaping LPG can drain away. Particularly important where the floor level is below the adjacent ground level.
  • Detection which could provide warning to occupants if there is a gas is build up within the dwelling. Enabling occupants to take action and/or to escape. The appropriate siting of such detectors will depend on which gas is being supplied.
  • Use of low emission materials and products.

Associated with lack of space and crowding. It takes into account the need for social interaction and privacy.

Impact on health

Linked to psychological distress and various mental disorders. May also lead to:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased perspiration
  • intolerance
  • inability to concentrate
  • hygiene risks
  • accidents
  • spread of contagious diseases

Causes

  • Crowding together of people, their belongings and furniture.
  • Where circulation spaces or functional space around appliances are not kept clear.
  • Beds placed too close to fixed heating appliances.
  • Increased moisture burden. Can be a cause of condensation giving rise to associated health risk.
  • Shared facilities lack privacy.

Prevention

  • There should be enough space to separate different household activities. Will be dependent on the number of people sharing the space, and whether they are part of the same household.
  • Open-plan dwellings may be acceptable for a single person or for a couple. Not for larger households.
  • Physical separation of living, cooking, dining and even sleeping areas.
  • Bedrooms leading off circulation spaces large enough for sleeping, study and relaxing.
  • Enough provision for sleeping for the numbers accommodated in the dwelling.
  • Adequate sized living area for the household.
  • Indoor and outdoor play and recreation space is necessary in accommodation housing children.
  • Outdoor play space should be visible from within the dwelling.
  • Each bath or shower sited in a bathroom.
  • Each toilet sited in a bathroom or separate compartment. Provided with a lockable door.

Collision and entrapment

  • Threats of trapping body parts (e.g. fingers or limbs) in architectural features (e.g. doors/windows).
    Striking (colliding with) features such as glazing, windows, doors, low ceilings, walls.

Impact on health

Accidents resulting in cutting or piercing by glass. Injuries from a door shutting on, or trapping, a body part.

Causes

  • Where doors or windows are difficult to close.
  • Where a door closer is over-powerful.
  • Doors and windows which pivot
  • Weak or broken sash cords.
  • The siting of doors and windows and the direction of opening
  • Doors to wall hung cupboards over worktops in kitchens
  • Gaps, particularly in guarding to balconies, landings and stairs, which are over 100mm
  • Areas or points of low head room.

Prevention

  • Openable windows should not project over pathways or obstruct the use the path
  • Doors and windows maintained in good repair. Attention to items such as sash cords, to avoid increasing the risk of an occurrence
  • Self-closers on doors adjusted so as not to cause over-vigorous closing
  • Safety glazing provided in doors and windows in vulnerable locations.

Position and operability amenities

Physical strain associated with functional space and other features of the dwelling.

Impact on health

Significant impacts from strains, sprains and falls.

Causes

  • The positioning and location of amenities, fittings and equipment
  • The design and layout of dwellings affecting convenience of use.
  • Inappropriate positioning of amenities and equipment.

Prevention

  • The layout of the dwelling. Kitchens and bathrooms should be convenient to use as well as safe, and should allow cleaning.
  • Wash hand basins, sinks and worktops positioned at an appropriate height. Enough space to allow use without strain.
  • Light switches sited close to door openings and at each end of staircases and corridors. Positioned at a reasonable height.
  • Socket outlets should be conveniently sited.
  • Door handles at a reasonable height.
  • Window catches should be accessible without strain.
  • Cupboards and shelves should be easily reached, without posing collision hazards.

Explosion

A partial or total collapse of the building as a result of the explosion. Threats from debris created by the blast.

Impact on health

  • Explosions can result in extreme harm.
  • Injuries include crushing, bruising, puncture injuries, fractures and head/brain/spinal injuries.
  • Possible scalding if hot water appliances involved

Causes

  • Mains and stored gas, water vapour and fire explosions
    Defective installation or design
    Defects from inadequate maintenance.

Prevention

  • Gas supplied should meet the requirements of the current quality regulations.
    Appropriate design and installation of gas pressure regulators, meters and pipework.
  • Installation by a competent person (Gas Safe Registered).
  • Regular testing to ensure there are no leaks or other defects.
  • Appliances and associated flues serviced and maintained by a competent person.
  • With LPG there should be adequate ventilation.
  • Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) containers and storage tanks secured and sited away from ignition sources.
  • Hot water systems installed to meet the requirements of safety regulations
  • Hot water storage tanks of more than 3 gallon (15 litre) capacity not connected to the mains water supply.
  • Hot water systems need adequately sized vent pipes to allow steam to escape.
  • Unvented systems provided with a thermal cut-out and temperature relief valves.

Noise

Threats to physical and mental health from exposure to noise in the home caused by inadequate sound insulation.

Impact on health

  • People affected by noise from road traffic, neighbours and people outside.
  • Night-time noise may be more dangerous to health than day-time noise exposure.
  • Noise can affect both physical and mental health.
  • Physical health effects include raised blood pressure and headaches.
  • Mental health effects include stress, sleep disturbance, lack of concentration, anxiety, etc.

Causes

  • Noise tolerance may in part be determined by age, sex, working patterns, lifestyle.
  • Noise levels can be measured, but people differ in what sources they find offensive

Tolerable

  • Neighbours in daytime
  • Some traffic noise or routine home deliveries

Intolerable

  • Loud, continuous or unnecessary noises which seem to go on for long periods of time.
  • Inconsiderate noises, especially at night
  • Emotive, frightening noises, shouting or violent rows
  • Night time traffic noise
  • Disrepair of windows/internal/external doors allowing increased noise penetration
  • Inappropriate siting of plumbing/fittings/facilities
  • Noisy equipment or facilities
  • Strong door closers resulting in banging

Prevention

  • Double/secondary glazing and lobbies to external doors. Where there are high outside noise levels (e.g. traffic)
  • Possible triple glazing near airports/sources of very high noise levels
  • Insulation of upper floor/ceiling/roof space where aircraft noise is likely
  • Plumbing from WCs/cisterns sited away from separating walls
  • Bathrooms/WCs in flats not sited above living rooms/bedrooms

Structural collapse and Falling elements

Threats of whole dwelling collapse. An element or a part of the fabric failing because of inadequate fixing or disrepair. May be a result of adverse weather conditions.
Structural failure can be internal - threatening the occupants. Externally - putting members of the public at risk.

Impact on health

Potential injuries range from minor bruising to death. Injuries caused by objects falling from the fabric of a building are rare.

Causes

  • Falling slates, eaves gutters, bricks or windows, to collapse of walls
  • Floor, ceiling and staircase collapse
  • Fixtures, such as a light fittings or kitchen cabinets, falling from the ceiling or wall. Can be from a combination of poor fixings and vibration
  • Ceiling plaster
  • Chimney pots and roof slates or tiles
  • Other elements of the structure not stable or safe

Prevention

  • Property must be properly designed, constructed and maintained in good repair
  • Any disrepair should not interfere with structural integrity
  • Foundations and load bearing walls support the weight of the building and all its contents
  • External cladding, rendering or similar finishing and any coping should be securely fixed
  • Openings and lintels in external walls support the load above
  • Frames to openings of doors and windows should be securely fixed
  • External balconies and walkways must support their own weight and any imposed loads
  • The roof structure must be strong enough to support the weight of the covering. It must also cope with weather related loads, such as snow.
  • Roof coverings securely fixed
  • Chimney stacks and pots securely fixed
  • External pipework and gutters securely fixed
  • Eaves gutters should be capable of coping with the weight of typical snowfalls.
  • Floors must have the strength to support their own weight and that of imposed loads
  • Staircases must support their own weight and that of imposed loads. 
  • Ceilings must be strong enough to remain intact
  • Internal walls strong enough to support their own weight and all associated loads
  • Door frames and openings must be capable of supporting the weight of doors.
  • All fixtures and fittings securely fixed

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