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MichelleWyatt

Garden Chairs a Fire Hazard?

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MichelleWyatt

Hi Im seeking information on fire safety.

We are in a block of flats with a communal garden. There are 3 households in their 70s. One has had a quadruple heart bypass, another has had a mild stroke. I have to use an electric wheelchair.

During the covid19 lockdown we want to sit in the garden maintaining social distancing. This is because staying indoors is incredibly stressful.

We have been told by our landlord that if we want to sit in a chair anywhere in the garden, we must lift that chair & carry it back into the house each time we finish our sitting out. Our landlord is saying that to leave the chair out is a fire risk because if a fireman needed to get to a flat quickly, they might trip up the chair. This is resulting in 70 year olds having to either sit on the floor outside or be trapped in their houses during this lockdown.

It seems to me a far bogger risk to ask someone in their 70s or myself in my electric wheelchair to carry chairs multiple times daily. I need a lie down chair due to my disability. There is no such thing as a light, easy to carry recliner. 

Our manager is terrified of being fined due to her belief about these chairs. Some of them are not even on paths but she still believes if anyone 'trips up' them she will be punished. Yet she has no concern about accidents from people carrying the chairs & is ordering people to carry them.

What is your understandings & suggestions regarding this? Thank you. I can pay the £340 for the fire risk assessment but its hard to come up with that kind of money when you are an individual & disabled rather than a business. 
We are willing to adapt the garden in a way that enables to firemen to route a hose, dragging it along with say a pole specifically positioned so as they drag it the pole controls its position so that it goes along the path without any of the chairs interfering with the hose. There must be some adaptation idea that can resolve this?

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Messyshaw

Hi Michelle

A couple of questions if I may?

  1. What is the nature of the premises where you live as you mention landlord and later ‘manager’. So is it supported living, a residential home or a private dwelling?
  2. Well done for the excellent graphic. Can you confirm that the grey line which runs vertically alongside the LH side of the block (with three chairs) and then turns left towards to the two  chairs is a path?
  3. If so, roughly how wide? Material (concrete, gravel)? and most importantly, is there a fence, wall, ditch or other barrier between the path and the grassed area?

I suspect that the advice you have been given is excessive and not required to comply with fire safety regulations but some further information would help me be more certain

Your landlord or manager (whoever has ‘control’ of the building) must maintain escape routes. Therefore if the chairs were located on a communal balcony and therefore obstructing the escape route, it is likely that this would not be acceptable. But from the photo you have supplied, it appears that it may be possible to walk on the grass and around the chairs. Have I got that right?

It would be helpful if you could provide a photo of the path, showing the flats and grassed are if you could. If possible, a photo of a chair in situ would be useful

But whatever you do, do NOT pay for a fire risk assessment. Completion of a FRA id the responsibility of the landlord (in residential premises) or employer (in a business environment) and not usually down to a tenant to pay for

You could ask to see a copy of the fire risk assessment that your landlord has had done (or should have had done). But frankly, it might not help you at this time and the landlord is not obliged to share it with residential tenants (I hope this will change soon). If the landlord is citing something in the the fire risk assessment document which explicitly says you must not locate the chairs in this position, then you really must demand to see it even if the landlord will not give you a copy.

There are a host of complaints procedures for various landlord associations if s/he belongs to one, but please do answer the questions above and lets see how far we can get on here first

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MichelleWyatt
Posted (edited)
  1. The premises is Council flats on a housing estate rented from the council. Its a mixture of everyday people. The pathway concerned is 3 bungalows in a row which is why its pensioners. Its not other than normal council housing arrangement.
  2. The grey line is a path of paving slabs that is 180cm width. The chairs take up half of the width. I can get past all the chairs in my electric wheelchair using the remaining width of paving slabs. 
  3. Next to the paving path is grass or beddings of flowers. There is no fence or ridge or anything to trip up of walking onto the grass. Only a bed of flowers that can be trampled over eg pansies primroses.

The people making these claims are titled "Housing Estate Manager" or "Housing Management Officer" There is one for each estate. They all are told what to do by the "Housing Team Leader". It is this team leader that is telling her staff (the estate managers) to say this. They are saying that when the firemen come they will trip up on anything that is on the path when trying to put out the fire so there must be nothing on the entire path. They are saying the they were told this by the fire services.

So their claim is not about escape routes its about the firemen being able to access the properties rapidly without any accidents.
 

 

 

Edited by ChrisW
Personal information removed from post

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Messyshaw

From the very detailed information you have supplied, and taking into account that I have 43 years experience in the fire industry, the last 16 in fire safety - and the last 11 of those applying fire safety legislation in exactly these type of premises, excuse the technical speak, but this is a load of pedantic jobsworth crap.

A chair on that path would cause no significant obstruction for fire crews attending an emergency. And as this is the landlords reason for an objection, it holds no water whatsoever. 

Can I ask whether you are in dispute with your landlords in relation to any other matter, or have you had a disagreement with them or a neighbour? In my experience, fire safety matters are often used when retribution is being sought and people grasp at straws 'to get their own back'. 

Alternatively, some managers who are not ably equipped with the competence to do the job, may interpret H&S and fire safety rules somewhat excessively and rather overdo the measures required to keep people safe. An example I came across was a jobsworth asking tenants to remove 6 x coir doormats in corridors of block of flats as they are combustible. Completely over the top. 

I would contact your local fire station - not the fire safety team, just the local community fire station and explain your situation. This is the crew that would be faced by the huge and impenetrable obstruction of 3 chairs!;)!!  Definitely explain that if they were to attend, social distancing can be maintained as the entire problem is external to your home. It may be possible to get a letter from them hopefully confirming they don't see the location of the chair as an issue (I can't be sure about the letter,  but I would have done so)

Please do let us know how you got one - and be warned, it is possible to access your Facebook account via the photo you provided. Is this OK with you?

How about you operational crews. Would a chair cause you an issue accessing Michelle's home (from what you can see and read here??)

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ChrisW

Hi Michelle,

I think Messy has provided the answer to your enquiry. Too often landlords/property managers use fire safety as an excuse to prevent behaviour or actions from residents that they find unacceptable for other, unknown, reasons. Your tenancy agreement may allow them to dictate certain requirements but their reasoning should be able to stand up to scrutiny. Using the excuse as described in your post does not, for the reasons highlighted by Messy.

You will notice that I have removed the Facebook part of your post. This is to protect your personal information as it would have been possible to access your account via the post.

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MichelleWyatt

Yes Im ok with the facebook link so then everyone can see the pictures!

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Noddy

This forum would be lost without it’s very own fire safety expert Mr Messy Shaw.... what a comprehensive response!  👏👏👏

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