Home safety

Orbit wants to be as certain as possible that your home, and its surroundings, is a safe environment for you and your family.  We have certain legislatory and regulatory responsibilities as a landlord, but there is also a lot you can do yourself to improve the safety and security of your home. Do take the time to find out the location of your gas stopcock, mains water stopcock, electricity meter and fuse board (consumer unit).

Watch our Fix it videos to find out more about how you can carry out repairs safely.

Below you will find some useful information on some of the most common safety and security issues:

Asbestos

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in many forms as a building material in Great Britain until the late 1990s.  Asbestos is a fibrous material, which was added to products to strengthen them and provide fire proofing and noise reduction. If your home was built before the year 2000, there is a possibility it may contain asbestos.

Undisturbed, undamaged or sealed asbestos is safe.  As your landlord, Orbit wants to make sure you understand our responsibilities and your responsibilities if asbestos is present in your home. 

What is wrong with asbestos?

When asbestos materials age or become damaged, they may release fibres into the air.  If breathed in, the fibres could lead to asbestos related diseases, but they are rare – lengthy exposure to high levels of asbestos is needed.

Where is asbestos most likely to be found in the home?

Asbestos is most likely to be found in the following locations in and around the home:

  • behind old fires and boilers and lagging on old pipes and water tanks
  • behind old fuse boards and at the back of airing cupboards
  • in old vinyl floor tiles and textured wall and ceiling coating (Artex)
  • garage\shed roofs, gutters and downpipes.

Most occurrences of asbestos in housing are of low risk and very unlikely to harm your health

Orbit’s responsibilities

The only way to establish the presence of asbestos is for a specialist to carry out a survey and (possibly) take samples of the materials for testing.  Our aim is to gather as much information as possible about asbestos in our properties so we can inform customers and contractors ahead of any work being carried out.  This information is known as the Asbestos Register.  We undertake asbestos surveys of your home during improvement works and when we upgrade empty homes.  This information is recorded on our register.  Where necessary, we will remove any damaged or fragile material.  It is not necessary to remove asbestos that is in good condition.  Most occurrences of asbestos in housing are of low risk and very unlikely to harm your health

Orbit will not normally remove asbestos present in your home unless it is likely to be disturbed, if there is a need to remove any asbestos containing material from your home, Orbit will agree a plan with you to do so.

What are your responsibilities?

Asbestos containing materials in good condition will not release asbestos fibres.  There is no danger unless the fibres are released.  Usually no action is required on your part and you do not need to tell us if you think you have asbestos in your home.

If you think you have damaged or disturbed asbestos in your home you should contact us without delay.  Call Orbit free on 0800 678 1221

What should you do?

  • Contact Orbit if you wish to undertake DIY work to your property and obtain our permission, even if you believe there is no asbestos containing material in your home.
  • Take every precaution to avoid damaging identified asbestos containing material in your home.  Asbestos products should not be drilled, cut or disturbed, scraped or sanded.
  • Don’t panic if you think you have asbestos containing material in your home – it is only an issue if it gets disturbed.
  • Don’t attempt to remove anything you may think contains asbestos.  Contact us for advice if you are worried or believe you have disturbed asbestos.

Only a trained contractor can remove asbestos products.

Orbit Heart of England

Orbit East

Orbit South

Fire safety

To help you reduce the risk of fire in your home, we have worked with the London Fire Brigade to produce a Fire Safety guide for residents. It contains helpful tips to help keep you and your family safe.

Orbit Heart of England

Orbit East

Orbit South

Condensation and mould

Many properties in the United Kingdom are affected by condensation problems.  Condensation occurs when moist air meets a colder surface.  Unless dried, the damp area will allow the growth of mould. There’s a lot you can do to reduce the occurrence of condensation and mould in your home, read the following leaflets to find out more:

Orbit East

Orbit South

Orbit Heart of England

For more information on how to manage condensation in your home, please visit our interactive house by clicking here.

Electrical safety

What can I do to protect myself and my family from the dangers of electricity?

To reduce the risk of fire or injury caused by an electrical fault:

  • Switch off appliances when not in use
  • Always switch off and disconnect televisions from the power source at night
  • Make sure that all plugs are wired correctly
  • Check flexes regularly, never use damaged ones and do not run them under carpets or rugs
  • Never touch switches with wet or damp hands
  • Never wire more than one electrical appliance into one plug and do not use adaptors
  • Do not run any appliances from a light fitting.

There’s a burning smell/smoke marks from an electrical socket/ fuse board – what should I do?

Turn off the power at the main switch on the fuse board. Contact our Customer Service Centre by telephone to report the problem.

There’s been a leak, and water is coming through a light fitting – what should I do?

Do not attempt to touch it, or switch it on.  Contact the Customer Service Centre immediately for assistance.

Frost damage

If water freezes in the pipes or cisterns, this can cause serious damage; ice takes up more space than the water it is formed from, causing cracks in the plumbing. These are not noticed until thawing occurs, and water leaks out.

What can I do to help prevent burst pipes?

Keep your home reasonably warm at all times. Before winter comes, check that all water pipes and tanks in the roof or outside are insulated. If there are problems, please contact us.

I don’t want to leave my heating on and I have to go away for a few days this winter. What can I do to help prevent frozen pipes?

Just before you leave, turn off the mains water stopcock, and drain all the water from the system, by turning on all the taps and flushing the toilet.  If you have an automatic heating system, leave it on at a lower temperature, to avoid the system freezing up.

When you return, turn on the mains water stopcock and check that the taps are operating properly.

I’ve been away, and my central heating is not now working – what should I do?

If you have turned on your central heating, and the radiators are not getting hot, turn it off again and contact us. If one radiator stays cold, or only heats up at the bottom, you probably need to bleed the air out with a radiator key. These can be bought from a DIY store or hardware shop. It is a good idea to keep one handy BUT if you have a pressurised system, with a pressure gauge on the boiler, DO NOT TOUCH IT because this will shut down the boiler. If you have a system like this and the radiators are not working, please contact us.

I have a burst pipe – what should I do?

Turn off the mains supply stopcock. Turn on all taps, and flush the toilet, to drain as much water as you can from the system. Contact the Customer Service Centre to arrange assistance. In the meantime, If the leak is from a damaged pipe/joint, try to put the pipe back into the joint and tie it tightly with a piece of cloth. If the pipe is split or has a hole, find a piece of something soft like Plasticine or soap and fix this to the hole with a piece of rag or tape. Put a bucket or saucepan underneath to catch the water.

Water is coming through a light fitting – what should I do?

Do not attempt to touch it or switch it on.  Contact the Customer Service Centre immediately for assistance.

Gas safety

I think I can smell gas – what should I do?

IMPORTANT If you smell gas or suspect you have a gas leak, leave the property and telephone the Gas Emergency Services on 0800 111 999 and then contact our Customer Service Centre. Do not use a mobile or cordless telephone unless you are outside the property away from the suspected leak.

If you feel it is safe to do so, turn off the gas at the main supply, at the gas meter, then:

  • Open all doors and windows to ventilate the property
  • Do not use any electrical equipment or turn on/off any lights or sockets Extinguish all naked flames (gas cookers and fires), do not smoke, strike matches or do anything which could cause a spark
  • If there is any electrical entry phones/locks/door bells, please look out for the engineer and open the door manually. It is also a good idea to put a note on the door telling people not to use the electrical door entry system or doorbell
  • Check to see if a gas tap has been left on or the pilot light has blown out on any gas boilers or appliances.

How often does Orbit service its gas boilers and appliances?

As a landlord, Orbit is legally required to service all gas boilers and provided appliances, and test gas pipework, once a year. Our contractors are Gas Safe register approved. It is a condition of your tenancy agreement that you co-operate, to ensure the safety of you, your family and your neighbours.

How will I know when the service is due? We will write to you in good time before the due date of the annual service, offering an appointment.  If the appointment is not convenient, you can re-arrange it, but the visit must be before the due date.

Will Orbit service or test my gas cooker?

We do not service or test your own appliances; it is your responsibility to make sure they are operating safely. However, if the engineer notices anything of concern, you will be informed.

What if I miss the appointment or fail to allow access?

As yearly servicing is a legal requirement of a landlord, we follow a set practice of reminders.  If you fail to co-operate, you are in breach of your tenancy agreement, and we will apply for a court injunction to gain access. If you still refuse, you may lose your home.  You will also be liable for all court costs resulting from our attempts to carry out the gas service.

I think there is a fault to my heating / hot water, what should I do?

Please report repairs separately, using our on-line form, or contact the Customer Service Centre to arrange an engineer.

Why do I have a carbon monoxide detector?

We are now fitting carbon monoxide detectors (CO) in all our homes at the time of annual service. CO has no smell or taste, and is not visible. It is produced when gas burns incorrectly, and can kill. You may experience headaches, drowsiness, stomach and chest pain.  You are most in danger whilst sleeping. To help keep yourself and your family safe:

  • Do not block the air vents on an appliance
  • Do not block outside grilles, flues or air-bricks
  • Do not use an appliance if you are not sure that it is working properly.
  • Watch out for yellow or orange flames, soot and stains, and pilot lights that blow out regularly
  • Always use Gas Safe engineers to fit and service your gas cooker, and make sure that it is safely fastened to the wall
  • Always let our contractors into your home to carry out the annual service check, and let us know if you think the service has not been done
  • Tell us if you are going to install any new gas appliance Have your own appliances checked annually
  • Do not sleep in living rooms which have a back boiler.

Your carbon monoxide detector could save your life.  Therefore:

  • Follow the test instructions regularly to ensure it is working
  • Never switch off or unplug the detector
  • If the alarm sounds, switch off the gas and telephone our Customer Service Centre.

Check your heating is working before it gets cold. Turn on your system and if there appears to be an issue, please just contact us.

Homes security

Simple security precautions can minimise the risk of burglary:

  • Always lock all doors and windows when you leave your home
  • Never leave keys under mats or hanging on a string behind the letterbox
  • Always check the identity of callers before you let them in, all our staff and contractors carry photo identification.
  • If you are unsure, please contact us and we will be happy to confirm if they are a valid visitor and acting on our behalf
  • If you are away for a few days, cancel milk and newspaper deliveries If you live in a block of flats with a door entry phone, never prop open the main door.

If you want more information on home safety/security contact your local Crime Prevention Officer.

They will also be able to advise you of any local Neighbourhood Watch Schemes in operation, and how to go about setting one up in your area if there is not one currently

Legionella

Orbit follows an approved Code of Practice, carrying out regular inspection and water safety testing of shared water systems, in blocks of flats. In individual homes, the risk from legionella is very slight.

What is legionella?

Legionella is a bacterium which can grow in stored or stagnant water, under certain conditions.

Why is it dangerous?

Inhalation of infected spray or droplets of water vapour can result in Legionnaire’s disease.  This is a pneumonia which may be mild and flu-like, but can be more serious, and sometimes fatal. Early treatment with the correct antibiotics is effective in most cases.

What can I do in my home to help eliminate the risk?

It is unlikely that you will be at risk from legionella bacteria in your home water system. Mains supply water is treated by the water companies, so contamination has to occur between the water plant and your home. Renewal of stored water in cylinders or tanks is frequent in occupied homes, so bacteria do not have the opportunity to grow. However, the following precautions are advisable:

  • Ensure all water storage tanks have tightly-fitting covers in place
  • Regularly descale taps, shower heads and hoses
  • Ensure all thermostats on stored hot water cylinders are set to 60° C or above.
  • If you leave your home for a long period of time, drain off and refill any stored water tanks when you return, before first use.
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