Government announce that combustible materials used on new high-rise buildings will be no more

The government announced yesterday the banning for the use of all combustible materials on new high-rise residential buildings. The ban which will kick in officially on December 21st, also applies to residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools, as well as student accommodation, however, the buildings must be over 18 metres.

The ban comes in place as the government plan to also give more support to local authorities for the carrying out of emergency work, removing and /or replacing unsafe ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) cladding.

Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire MP is also taking further action with an aim of speeding up the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding, commenting: “Everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes and I have repeatedly made clear that building owners and developers must replace dangerous ACM cladding. And the costs must not be passed on to leaseholders. My message is clear – private building owners must pay for this work now or they should expect to pay more later.”

The managing director for the FPA (Fire Protection Association), Jonathon O’Neil, added: “The Fire Protection Association welcomes the announcement, but we would urge MHCLG to urgently consider banning the use of combustible materials for all high-risk occupancies regardless of the height of the building. We also believe they need to consider the toxicity of all building materials in the case of fire.”

Dangerous Christmas tree habits revealed by British public

A recent survey conducted by consumer protection charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) found many worrying habits related to the use of Christmas trees by British residents, and prompted safety warnings for the festive period to be issued.

Among the statistics, it is shown that one in eight Brits who purchase a real Christmas tree tend to cover it in hairspray to prevent needles falling off, despite it being highly flammable. Furthermore, one in three respondents said they use tea-lights to decorate their tree, exposing it to a naked flame. The most risky area of the UK when it comes to Christmas tree lights was London, where nineteen per cent of people use lights that don’t work or are damaged; the lights here are also 3.55 years old on average.

The dangers highlighted here mainly relate to real Christmas trees, therefore ESF have urged people to purchase safer artificial trees. Real trees are prone to drying out, however half of people who buy them admit that they do not water their tree. These trees can absorb up to a litre of water everyday, and research suggests that neglecting real trees may be putting British homes at serious risk. The survey done by ESF also found that many of the lights used by British residents are in poor condition, with one in four saying their lights are tangled, risking frayed wires or damaged insulation.

Electrical safety first highlighted these tips for those purchasing Christmas trees:

Always:

  • check lights are not damaged before use and replace immediately when necessary
  • keep lights away from flammable decorations and materials that can burn easily
  • switch lights off and unplug them before going to bed

Never:

  • use lights outdoors unless designed specifically for this
  • connect lights to supply whilst still in packaging
  • overload sockets – try to avoid using extension leads or adaptors

Worryingly, around one in five of people who use Christmas tree lights admit to leaving them on overnight or when they leave the house. Analysis by ESF showed that last year in the UK, more house fires occurred in December than during any other month.

Director of Communications at ESF, Emma Drackford, said; “Whether your Christmas tree is real or fake, it’s vitally important that you ensure any lights on or around it are in good condition and plugged into sockets that aren’t overloaded.

“Also, station your tree away from any heat sources such as radiators and never leave festive lights switched on when you leave the house or go to bed.”

Christmas shoppers warned over rise in dodgy electrical goods sold online

Christmas shoppers have been warned to be extra cautious when it comes to the purchasing of what could potentially be dangerous counterfeit goods. According to professional audit company, ‘KPMG’, in the past 2 years there have been almost 40 cases (39 in total) involving the purchase of £116m worth of counterfeit or fake goods. These have ranged from fake perfumes, fake hair straighteners, even fake e-books, all involved in several court cases in the UK.

These figures come shortly after PIPCU, the City of London (Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit) had launched their own campaign, using the hashtag #Shockingfakes, highlighting the dangers of purchasing counterfeit electrical goods. PIPCU mentioned that along with the obvious risk to health and safety, such as electrical fires and electrical shocks, there is also a risk of identity theft for those who purchase the dodgy goods online.

KPMG reported that some of the most prevalent pirated media they had identified had included the following: video games, music, eBooks as well as computer software. They stated that the reason for the rise in the sale of counterfeit goods is “consumers are seemingly driven by a hunger to maintain a designer lifestyle on a low-key budget”.

A forensic partner for KPMG, James Maycock, explained: “Consumers may often turn a blind eye or consider this a victimless crime, but this shadow economy activity often directly promotes money laundering and tax evasion. It can also help to fund other more serious organised criminal enterprises, including human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.”

A report by Electrical Safety First was pinpointed by the City of London Police unit, in which it was found that at least 30% of people surveyed had been tricked into buying a counterfeit electrical item online that had been advertised as legitimate. We previously mentioned how Electrical Safety First have also highlighted the growing issue in which pirate sellers are utilising big online retailers like Amazon or eBay as third-party sellers to trick people into buying their fake goods.

Police used a fire that had broken out earlier this year in some London flats leading to the evacuation of 20 people, as an example of the real-life implications of purchasing faulty electrical goods. This because the fire was said to be started by an unbranded phone charger. Meanwhile, even as recently as last week, PIPCU have successfully closed down 31,000 websites, this as part of an operation carried out by Europol, the EU’s agency for police cooperation, aimed at the reduction of counterfeit and or pirated items that are sold online.

PIPCU issued a statement urging the public to trust their instincts, expressing that “If an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is”.

Construction industry striving to achieve net zero carbon buildings

A new task group has recently been launched by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) in the hopes to develop a workable definition for net zero carbon buildings. The group will be made up of over 30 experts from across the building sector and is being supported by 11 industry bodies, including the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Sustainable Energy Association.

The need for energy efficient solutions across multiple industries has been significantly increased following the Paris Climate Agreement, and even more so since the recent IPCC special report; businesses globally have to now look at achieving net zero emissions to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change. A global campaign has been initiated by the World Green Building Council, calling for all new buildings to be net zero carbon in operation by 2030 and existing buildings to achieve this by 2050.

The target for the task group is to create an industry-wide consensus on a definition for net zero carbon buildings; first examining how these new buildings will operate in practice, then determining standards which will inform project designs, planning requirements and building regulations. An industry-based consultation on the task groups work will be opened in February and finalised directions will be published in spring 2019.

The task group created by UKGBC is part of the wider initiative Advancing Net Zero, aiming to drive transformation to a net zero carbon built society. The programme is backed by the Redevco Foundation and other partners including BAM Construct UK and Berkeley Group.

Senior policy advisor at UKGBC, Richard Twinn, said: “The construction and property industry is ready to make its contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement and start delivering net zero carbon buildings. But there is still a lack of clarity about what a net zero carbon building means in practice.

“This initiative is aiming to move beyond discussions about specific tools and policies towards buildings that work as intended and achieve genuine net zero carbon. We are seeking to create an agreed industry-led definition for net zero carbon buildings in the UK, to ensure we are all working towards the same outcomes.”

(Source: FM World)

Mayor of London to boost number of apprenticeships by 2,000

Mayor Sadiq Khan, has vowed to help boost the number of apprenticeships in the UK. The London mayor recently announced that he will aim to increase the number of new apprenticeships in the UK, and particularly London, by at least 2000.

Currently in the UK apprenticeships are funded by the levy which was introduced in April 2017 and is paid by businesses with an annual bill that exceeds £3m. Since then, apprenticeship rates in London alone have fallen by a staggering 21%.

In London, businesses statistically pay more towards the apprenticeships levy than any other region, however, it remains that at least 2 in 5 of these London businesses still do not utilise any of the available levy funds, a further 2 in 5 spend less than half of available funds.

This money in turn, ends up going back to the Treasury, when it could be getting invested into young Londoners. The most affected sectors are said to be hospitality, retail and construction. In spite of this, Khan has pledged to invest at least £1.3m in several trial projects with an aim of helping encourage employers to spend their levy funds on high quality apprenticeships, if not, transfer the money down the supply chain towards smaller businesses.

The Mayor is looking to boost his credentials as pro-business by creating at least 2,000 new training opportunities with hopes of turning these opportunities into apprenticeships. A focus being placed on the struggling sectors previously mentioned such as hospitality, construction and retail.

Khan has set up a separate scheme for the construction industry alone, creating a Construction Academy to help improve skills within the sector. He is also expanding the London Enterprise Adviser Network, investing £114m into new buildings along with equipment for skills training in London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan had this to say on his plans: “From biotech, engineering and construction to retail, hospitality and healthcare, London needs workers with the skills to support the rich variety of our economy. Given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, ensuring a better and more responsive skills network – as well as continued access to global talent – is more important than ever. Apprenticeships are a key part of my commitment to being London’s most pro-business Mayor and giving young Londoners the skills they need to succeed – they benefit individuals, businesses and the whole London economy – so I’m delighted to be able to announce further funding to unlock more opportunities across the capital. Now we need the government to recognise our success and devolve adult careers services provision to City Hall.”

 

Lack of tech stifling growth for UK SMEs

The failures of UK-based SMEs to incorporate new workplace technologies into their companies may be damaging their growth, productivity and employee engagement. According to recent research, as many as three quarters of these types of businesses are being set back by their slow uptake of tech such as cloud usage, mobile working and BYOD. The research surveyed 500 SME owners and 150 employees from across the UK.

Recently, IT analyst Gartner estimated that by 2022 cloud would make up almost a third of all IT spending; however, the recent study by Crown Workplace, titled ‘The Missed Middle’, suggests that only a quarter of SMEs are prepared for this. Consequently, SMEs business agility, security and financial efficiency could be affected negatively.

Voice technology is one aspect that has increased in the past few years, however only one in five of the respondents to this study felt prepared for its adoption. Furthermore, only a quarter of participants feel ready to adapt to mobile working systems and personal devices in the workplace. However, some newer technologies such as Li-Fi and automated heating and lighting are being slowly adopted by SMEs in this country.

Positive news from the study is that the majority of respondents feel their connectivity is where it needs to be, as Wi-Fi and broadband speed was not recorded as an issue by many. But for most businesses, new technology usage seems to be less important than ensuring storage facilities when thinking about strategies for growth. Another consideration is that two thirds of SME owners admit that their current working environment limits engagement with employees and the ability to retain top talent. Cost is obviously the main issue for SMEs wanting to modernise their offices with the most up-to-date technology.

Simon Gammell, director at Crown Workspace, said: “Modern technology has created a new set of rules for the workplace. Tech such as Wi-Fi, remote storage and mobile are what employees expect, and that’s what SME owners should consider first when designing a workspace to ensure that their people can work and communicate effectively. Design factors such as layout, equipment and furniture are also massively important too but should not come at the detriment of technology.”

Virtual reality introduced for use in safety market

There has been a recent innovative move in the safety market, this move was kick started by ‘MSA’ who are an industry leading supplier of safety products on a global scale. The company recently found a way in which to help enable their customers to somewhat experience their many safety products without having to be exposed to the dangerous hazards that the equipment is required for.

MSA’s Customer Marketing Communications Manager, Evelyn Webb explained: “VR has undoubtedly been a gamechanger for MSA. It offers a new and innovative way to convey our suite of products to customers and transforms sales meetings. We’ve been using these technologies at trade shows and in presentations, with fantastic customer engagement and feedback. We worked with immersive technology specialists, Render, to develop VR to showcase our fall protection products in a completely new, interactive way. The technology makes our products come to life for our customers. The VR scenarios can be accessed through HTC VIVE® headsets or through a mobile app on both iOS and Android. It has enabled us to truly showcase our fall protection expertise and the benefits that brings to customers.”

Mark Miles, Render’s Chief Executive, also added that: “You’re not just seeing and hearing, you’re feeling. An immersive narrative gives customers the full sensory experience. In the VR construction experience that Render and MSA has developed, users climb up to a virtual rooftop, using a controller to ‘clip on’ at every step before they reach the rooftop to carry out vital maintenance. By enabling customers to literally experience the products for themselves in a life-like hazardous environment, MSA can communicate the value of its products in seconds.”

After they have chosen the required choice of language for the simulation, users are then given the opportunity to select the correct equipment for working at height, this includes a full body harness and a personal fall limiter (PFL). After scaling a ladder using the equipment, to the roof of a commercial unit, the user must then remove an inspection cover from an air-conditioning unit. The worker is in a fall arrest position and the VR user virtually ‘falls’ backwards in the simulation, over the edge of the roof. MSA’s Latchways fall protection system successfully arrests the fall before gently lowering the user to the ground.

The users experience can be updated to showcase various new products, allowing for different working scenarios and changing of language choice if required.

To give it a go, visit the following link – www.msasafety.com/VR

FM companies losing skilled EU workers offer higher pay

Since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, facilities management firms have been forced to turn to financial incentives to try and keep talented EU citizens from leaving the country. Financial data from Engage Technology Partners has revealed that since the vote, hourly pay for skilled roles that are in short supply has risen. In particular, maintenance positions have seen a significant rise in wages.

Handymen/women and mechanical maintenance professionals have seen the greatest increase in pay during the past three years, experiencing 13 per cent and 10 per cent increases respectively. Electricians have also seen a 5 per cent rise in hourly wages since the vote.

The data has been released after reports from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development that UK industry is already feeling the affects of talent shortages ahead of the UK’s proposed exit from the European Union on the 29th March 2019. In its latest Labour Market Outlook report, the organisation showed that a third of employers of foreign EU citizens reported that the Brexit decision had influenced these professionals to leave their UK based workforce.

Drey Francis, director at Engage, said: “For facilities management firms, maintaining reliable access to a team of maintenance professionals was already an issue before the Brexit vote. Since the decision was made to exit the EU, this issue has deteriorated further, with many of the FM firms we have a relationship with reporting that availability of these professionals is one of their biggest concerns going into 2019.

 “Given how sparse some of the talent for these roles is in general, it’s perhaps no wonder that employers are turning to financial incentives to attract staff. However, this isn’t a sustainable approach. Of course, we still need to wait and see what happens in terms of the agreement on the Freedom of Movement for the UK, but action can be taken now to improve staffing efficiencies in order to better cope with the expected upheaval in spring 2019.”

Engineering in top 5 league table for UK’s most trustworthy occupations

According to a recent survey, engineering is the 4th most trusted occupation in the UK. This was according to the new ‘Truth League Table Index’, the Institution of Engineering (IET) working in conjunction with the 2018 Veracity Index, have been tracking the levels of trust that the public have regarding different occupations in the UK. The engineering profession proves very popular in the UK, with roughly 1 in 5 people in the UK being an engineer. According to the league table, nearly 90% (87%) of people in the UK feel that engineering is a trustworthy profession, this was closely followed by those in the education sector, and healthcare sector, with teachers, nurses and doctors being some of the most trustworthy professions.

Particularly high was the trust amongst graduates in the UK, a reported 91% find engineering the most trustworthy profession, this is a positive for the industry, with the demand high for more qualified engineering professionals in the UK. A spokesperson for the IET had this to say regarding the reported popularity of the engineering profession: “Nearly 9 in 10 people trust engineers – this demonstrates the huge level of professionalism and importance of engineers in the UK to support our infrastructure and continue to advance the world around us. Having engineers at the top of the index amongst the likes of doctors and teachers will hopefully help us further shift outdated perceptions of engineering and encourage the next generation into an inspiring and rewarding career.”

It is perhaps not so surprising that when taking a deep dive down the trust league table, you will find the profession of politicians, with a measly 19% of UK residents feel it is a trustworthy profession. Government ministers were not much more popular with 22% finding them trustworthy. Statistically slightly more trustworthy were journalists with 26%, and estate agents with 30%.

The most trusting demographic in the UK were that of Generation Z, also found to be relatively trustworthy were Millennial’s. Those who voted to remain as well as Conservative party supporters along with most of the middle class were also highly trusting of most professions. Those with low levels of trust were found to be either divorced, separated or widowed. People who rent from the local authority and people with little to no formal education or qualifications were also found to have low levels of trustworthiness.

Electrical fires pose a huge risk to the elderly

Electrical fires are a serious concern for all residents in the UK, as fire services have seen particularly high numbers of fires reported in homes in recent years. However, the consumer charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) has pointed out that elderly people living by themselves are especially at risk, highlighting that on average, twelve accidental electrical fires take place every day in the homes of these kinds of residents.

The charity found that in 2017, 4,426 electrical fires occurred in the homes of people over 65 and living by themselves. This figure accounted for 22 per cent of all accidental electrical fires that took place in the country last year, which is massively disproportionate to the 7 per cent of the population made up by this demographic.

ESF also spoke to a number of over 65 year-olds who lived alone in the UK, assessing the vulnerability of this group, and found that one in four respondents would feel less at risk of experiencing an electrical fire if they lived with someone else.

The dangers posed by electrical fires are seen to be “shockingly” prevalent amongst the older population who live by themselves. In Scotland, this demographic suffered 30 per cent of all electrical fires in the country last year, while in England, they experienced 2,282 more fires than people of the same age who were cohabiting.

The charity has pointed out social isolation as a major factor as to why this group is so affected by electrical fires, as elderly people living alone may go a long time without seeing friends or relatives who they may rely on to check their electrical appliances, ESF said. A huge contributing factor is that elderly people may be less knowledgable about their electrical products, and with higher amounts of these in homes, this can be increasingly dangerous. In the survey carried out by ESF, nearly half of respondents admitted that they did not know the warning signs that something could be wrong with their electrical products.

Due to all this, Electrical Safety First are urging people to check on elderly relatives, friends and neighbours and offer to check their electrics for them. Emma Drackford of ESF said; “With our findings revealing the shocking number of electrical fires affecting this demographic we can all do our part to tackle this issue.

“Checking in on your older neighbour, friend or relative won’t only go a long way in tackling loneliness, but could save a life.”