18 November 2020: The publication this week of the Social Housing White Paper places the spotlight firmly on landlord’s responsibilities to tenants. It encompasses similar themes to those included in the Fire Safety Bill currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords and the Building Safety Bill, published in draft form in August.
The report behind the Social Housing White Paper was hailed at its inception by then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid as the “most substantial report of its kind for a generation”. Meanwhile the Building Safety Bill is described by the Housing Secretary as “the biggest change to our building safety regime for 40 years” and the implications of both are far-reaching for urban housing associations and local authorities in particular. Yet new research shows that a third of housing bosses expect their organisations will need more than two years to get up to speed with the Bill’s requirements1.
Fire safety is identified within all three sources as a top priority. Figures released for Fire Door Safety Week in September2 based on responses from 147 UK local authorities show that 60% delayed fire door maintenance and inspection programmes in the first half of 2020, affecting nearly 10,000 properties. Almost two thirds of the 26,318 planned fire door maintenance and replacement tasks scheduled to take place did not progress as planned, with almost a third still pending action dates.
Driven by improving tenant safety, key to the changes outlined across the three sources are more care in servicing and maintenance, improved communications with tenants and increased transparency in reporting.
In response, innovative software company Propeller Powered has fast-tracked the release of PROP-FS, a new software solution to help housing organisations to fully manage Fire Risk Assessments and fire door maintenance and inspection programmes through an app and dashboard. Importantly, the software includes for action management.
Harnessing the power of QR codes for asset tagging
The cloud-based software gives every fire door within a property a unique asset tag, linked with QR codes scannable by attending engineers for real time updates within the overall system, and has been
developed to work offline to avoid issues where buildings have poor connectivity or low network signal. From quarterly to annual inspection plans, instant access to the full property history, full records and compliance reports, PROP-FS can also be set up to provide contractors with access for remedial works and inspection planning.
Dave Carr, managing director at Manchester-based Propeller Powered says: “Our role is to help our clients to work more efficiently and effectively, and ultimately to act responsibly towards their tenants and their safety. As soon as the draft bill was published in August of this year, we started to develop a tool that would help social landlords to deliver better service to their tenants, comply with the new regulations and relieve the administrative burden.”
The company is currently piloting use of PROP-FS with two social housing associations.
UPDATE May 22: Prop-FS has now been implemented by 5 social landlords and 3 councils and is a proven solution to manage fire safety.
Power to the people
With increased transparency a key objective of the Social Housing White Paper and the Building Safety Bill, Propeller’s Fire Door & FRA Compliance Dashboard provides all key stakeholders with a real-time view on Fire Compliance, available anytime, anywhere. The portal can also be extended across other areas of compliance including gas, electrical, legionella and LOLER.
Tenants can also access vital safety information about their building, including a summary of a fire door’s service history, through Tenant QR codes. They can use the codes to instantly raise issues about specific doors, and upload photographs to the Propeller system, triggering automated tasks that are flagged for action.
Carr describes the new app as “a fully-functional test and trace system for fire doors, giving social housing landlords a complete property asset condition and service history, all of which is fully auditable. PROP-FS can enhance tenant communications and workflow management, and the reporting dashboard is a fantastic tool for board directors who need reliable and real time oversight of all of the fire doors within their responsibility – now more than ever.”