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

Rented customers living in blocks:

Fire safety is important; fires can cause a lot of damage and at worst, cost lives. Although fires are not common, it's important we work together to prevent them and you know what to do if a fire does start. This leaflet provides lots of useful information on fire prevention and what to do if a fire starts in your home

  • It is normal for blocks to not have fire extinguishers and fire blankets as we want you to move away, rather than towards a fire, to a place of safety. The presence of fire entinguishers encourages people to fight a fire, rather than evacuate the building. Additionally, a person may be tempted to re-enter a flat, having collected a fire entinguisher from a communal area, which is more dangerous than directly evacuating and ensuring the flat door is fully closed behind them. Fire blankets are generally applied to pan fires and where the user is untrained, serious injuries including burns and scalds, can occur if the fire is not properly cooled before the blanket is removed. The fire may also start again if enough heat remains and it hasn't been fully put out.

  • Test your smoke detector regularly (every for to six weeks).

  • If your block only has one exit then it will not need to have a fire exit sign posted above it.

  • It’s important to keep all communal areas free from personal items and debris as it can hinder escape routes and also help fires spread. Make sure fire doors are always closed, don't prop them open as it can damage the seal. Although we check them regularly, be sure to report it to us if they are not closing into the frame properly or have been damaged.

  • Household rubbish should always be taken to the refuse area immediately and not left in communal areas.

  • It is easy to get confused if it is dark or smoky so it’s important to know your route out of the building using the exit stairs. Count the number of doors you need to go through or use familiar objects to guide you to help with your escape in the event of a fire.

  • If you have access your meter with a key via the building's riser, it is really important that the doors remain locked and shut when not in use and that you report it to us if the door is not locked or closing properly. A riser is the duct that houses various cables and pipes that are in use around the building.
  • Not allowing non-residents into your block can reduce the risk of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and fires starting, so keep all doors secure.

  • It's important that we know who is living in your property, please make sure your details are up to date by logging in to My Account. If you think someone's subletting illegally, you can report them to us.

If you have a smoke detector in your home, whether it was there when you moved in or you have installed it, it should be checked regularly and this is your responsibility.

If you live in a supported, sheltered, very sheltered or independent with living care scheme block, you may also be covered by either a fire panel* or your warden cord system. Both of these systems will be tested by our contractors on a periodic basis.  One way to check is that smoke detectors that are part of a fire panel system do not have a self-test button.

*a fire panel is an alerting system either in communal area or a flat.

If your flat is being affected by fire or smoke and your escape route is clear:

  • Get everyone out, close all windows and doors and walk calmly out of the building.
  • Do not use the lift.
  • Call 999, give your address, the number of your flat and state which floor the fire is on

If there is a fire or smoke inside your flat but your escape route is NOT clear:

• It may still be safer to stay in your flat until the fire brigade arrives.
• Find a safe room, close the door and use soft materials to block any gaps to stop the smoke.
• Go to a window, shout “HELP, FIRE” and call 999.
• Be ready to describe where you are and the quickest way to reach you.

If there is a fire in another part of the building:

Purpose-built blocks of flats are built to give you some protection from fire. Walls, floors and doors can hold back flames and smoke for 30 to 60 minutes.

  • You are usually safer staying put and calling 999.

  • Tell the fire brigade where you are and the best way to reach you. 

If you are within the common parts of the building, leave and call 999.

Rented customers living in houses:

Fire safety is important; fires can cause a lot of damage and at worst, cost lives. Although fires are not common, it's important we work together to prevent them and you know what to do if a fire does start. This leaflet provides lots of useful information on fire prevention and what to do if a fire starts in your home. Some fire brigades offer a free home checking service, so it may be worth contacting them for a home safety check or additional fire safety advice.

If you have a smoke detector in your home, whether it was there when you moved in or you have installed it, it should be checked regularly as this is your responsibility.

If any of your smoke alarms go off, never assume that it is a false alarm.

  • Don’t waste time investigating what’s happened or rescuing valuables.

  • Don’t tackle fires yourself, many people are injured this way.

  • Leave it to the professionals.

  • Keep calm and get out, closing doors behind you to slow down the spread of fire and smoke.

  • Before you open a door check if it’s warm with the back of your hand. If it is, don’t open it, there may be a fire on the other side. If there’s smoke, keep low where the air is clearer.

  • Call 999 as soon as it’s safe to do so – 999 calls are free.

  • Never go back into the building once you are safely outside.

If you cannot make voice calls, you can contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone. You will only be able to use this service if you have registered with emergency SMS first. Text ‘register’ to 999. You will get a reply – then follow the instructions you are sent.

Advice for all customers:

What do I do if I have a faulty applicance? To confirm your appliance is affected, please check your model and serial number, or look for the model data label. You can check if your appliance has been recalled using a tool on the Electrical Safety First website at http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/


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:

  • Never undertake any alterations to the wiring, sockets or light fittings in your home, you must speak to us first in all cases
  • 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. If you have difficulties hearing, you may contact the National Grid by textphone (Minicom) on 0800 371 787. 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 your landlord, we are legally required to service all gas boilers and provided appliances, and test gas pipework in your home 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.  Never undertake any work that involves your boiler or heating system yourself, or allow anyone who does not have Gas Safe registration to do so.

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.

Any customer that gives us first time access for their annual gas safety check will be entered into a monthly draw to win one of three £50 shopping voucher prizes. When you receive your letter, be sure to book your appointment in right away so that you'll be in with a chance to win!

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
  • Do not use boiler compartments/ cupboards as storage areas.

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.

Any customer that gives us first time access for their annual gas safety check will be entered into a monthly draw to win of three £50 shopping voucher prizes. Be sure to book your appointment as soon as your receve your letter and you could be in with a chance to win!  

Home 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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