Saturday 20 January 2018

Fire concerns over council house lifts

Cllr. Pio Smith in the corner of a bedroom where it is proposed to install a lift for an incapacitated pensioner.
Cllr. Pio Smith in the corner of a bedroom where it is proposed to install a lift for an incapacitated pensioner.

Alison Comyn

A LOUTH county councillor is concerned that new lifts being installed in council houses are not being subjected to inspection from fire officers.

Cllr. Pio Smith contacted the Drogheda Independent as he is worried his queries about so-called 'through floor lifts' have not been properly addressed and he fears they may pose a risk to residents in case of a fire.

'I feel the council's policy of granting these lifts needs to be reviewed as the it is only be recommended by an occupational therapist, who may not have any expertise in assessing any other danger, such as fire,' Cllr. Smith said.

'I feel that before a lift is fitted in a house, a risk assessment should be carried out focussing on the mobility of the person, the layout of the property and the level of the assistance available to the applicant in the event of a fire.'

Safety checks are not carried out by fire safety officers on these houses prior to recommendation or installation.

However, Louth County Council Director of Housing Joe McGuinness said other checks would be done prior to installation.

'Once an OT (occupational therapist) recommends the installation of a lift, it is, of course, dependant on the manufacturer/installer, certifying that the installation complies with all requirements,' he told the Drogheda Independent. 'If it can't comply, an other solution would have to be considered.'

Cllr Smith was speaking from a council house in Drogheda, where it has been recommended a lift be installed from a downstairs sitting room to the upstairs bedroom.

'This will cut their sitting room in half, and the bedroom has only two small windows, the first will have 30 per cent blocked by the lift, the second only opens six inches,' he points out.

'The lift costs €27,000 to install, only a few thousand less than a downstairs bedroom and bathroom, and I feel every effort should be made to convert a downstairs living space, before a lift is considered.

The occupiers don't want one of these lifts.

'If anything, we would prefer a stair lift, as we are very worried about what a lift in the house would be like,' said the wife of the elderly and infirm man.

'We are a small terrace, and I also feel it would be very noisy for our neighbours, and I really worry about my husband getting trapped upstairs.'

Drogheda Independent

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