POA Circulars

129 | 30.11.2018

Refrigerators in Prisoners Cells

It has been drawn to the NEC’s attention that some Establishments have made available or intend to make available, refrigerators in cells. This is and has the potential to be hazardous to the Health and Safety of both staff and prisoners and should be resisted by the local committees. It is now incumbent on all Branch Committee’s to enter into discussions regarding the withdrawal of these refrigerators from prisoner’s cells and if need be, enter into dispute for their removal under the provisions of PSO 8525.

The introduction of refrigerators into cells increases the fire load within the cell. Additionally, consideration must be given to the increase in constant power supply for the Residential Unit and across the site and the impact this may have on power demands required for new infrastructure being installed by HMPPS such as High-Pressure Water Mist, Smoke Extraction, emergency lighting and In-Cell Detection. There should be a full survey carried out by a competent engineering consultant to access the peak output required for any increase in demand without compromising emergency life safety critical equipment.

In tests carried out by the London Fire Brigade, a fridge with a plastic back burst into flames after 90 seconds of having heat applied to it and had to be put out after two-and-a-half minutes, but the current manufacturing standards still allows for holes in the backing for cables or components which leaves the highly flammable insulation inside exposed. Reducing the risk of fire and fire spread is a General Fire Precaution requirement which the Responsible Person (the Governor) has a duty under current legislation to adhere to. Is it foreseeable that offenders would deliberately damage their fridges and expose this highly flammable and highly toxic material? The NEC would say ‘Yes’. Therefore, in Establishments where offenders prepare their own food a dedicated Fire Resisting room is dedicated to the fridge freezer and other cooking equipment.

Considering the Grenfell fire disaster, the Fire & Rescue Service have identified the cause of that fire as a fridge which spread from the room of origin through an open window to the entire building spreading via the external envelope cladding and via fortuitous air paths within the building. To ensure the Responsible Person has considered the introduction of this new hazard fully and has considered the known risk of spread the NEC suspect the need to increase compartmentation and introduce further protection measures to prevent spread from the cell will be required. Windows that can open may need to be replaced for Grill type design to protect from external fire spread and any Plenum ventilation or multi duct environmental ventilation may need to have Fire Dampers installed to protect from internal spread.

As stated previously, if required an SFC should be submitted if Management are reluctant to remove refrigerators from cells under the provisions of PSO 8525.

Please draw the contents of this circular to all members and the local POA H&S representative.

Thanking you in anticipation of your support and co-operation.

Yours sincerely


General Secretary