HHSRS What is it?

And Why Does it Matter?

Every residential property in England and Wales must at all times comply with
HHSRS – the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. 

Introduced as the very first item in the Housing Act 2004, it is the system that Councils use to judge your properties for Enforcement Action

 

HHSRS identifies 29 ‘Hazards’ that Council Inspectors will assess your property for. Any ‘Category 1′ Hazards found will lead to Mandatory Enforcement Action.

Councils also have discretionary powers to Enforce against Category 2 Hazards. 

SO what are the 29 Hazards?

Whenever the Council comes to your property to inspect, the law says they MUST assess your property for each and every one of these 29 Hazards. If they find any single one to have a ‘Category 1 Hazard’ they are legally REQUIRED to commence Enforcement Action. 

1. Damp and Mould

Threats to health associated with increased prevalence of house dust mites and mould or fungal growths resulting from dampness and/or high humidities.

It includes threats to mental health and social well-being which may be caused by living with the presence of damp, damp staining and/or mould growth

Health effects...

Both the detritus from house dust mites and mould spores are potent airborne allergens.

Exposure to high concentrations of these allergens over a prolonged period will cause sensitisation of atopic individuals (those with a predetermined genetic tendency to sensitisation), and may sensitise non-atopic individuals. Once a person is sensitised relatively low concentrations of the airborne allergen can trigger allergic symptoms such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis, eczema, cough and wheeze.

For a sensitised person, repeated exposure can lead to asthma, and it appears that the severity of the asthma intensifies with increasing humidity, house dust mite and mould levels.

4. Asbestos and MMF

The presence of, and exposure to, asbestos fibres and manufactured mineral fibres (MMF) within dwellings
    Health effects...
    The inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause pleural disease (pleural plaques and fibrosis), lung cancer and mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura, the lining around the lung, or, less frequently, cancer of the peritoneum).
    Each of these conditions typically occurs decades after first exposure to asbestos.
    Pleural plaques may occur ten years after asbestos exposure, although they are likely to go unidentified. Lung cancer and mesothelioma typically occur 20 to 50 years after exposure.
    Lung cancer has very poor survival rates, and there is no known cure for mesothelioma.

    HHSRS Audits

    To judge whether they can fine you, Councils use HHSRS – the Housing Health and Safety Rating System – to assess whether you have breached any of the HMO Management Regulations.

    Even good landlords who make a mistake face Councils issuing Civil Penalty fines up to £30,000. 

    Read more to Avoid Fines & Prosecution...

    Landlords Defence can assist by coming into your HMO and performing a full HHSRS compliance audit – reporting to you what works need to be done to make your property fully compliant – before the Council inspects and fines you!

    Go to our HHSRS audit page here

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    11. Crowding and Space

    This category covers hazards associated with lack of space within the dwelling for living, sleeping and normal family or household life.

    Health effects...
    Lack of space and overcrowded conditions have been linked to a number of health outcomes, including psychological distress and mental disorders, especially those associated with a lack of privacy and childhood development.
    Crowding can result in an increased in heart rate, increased perspiration, reduction of tolerance, and a reduction of the ability to concentrate. Crowded conditions are also linked with increased hygiene risks, an increased risk of accidents, and spread of contagious disease.

    13. Lighting

    Threats to physical and mental health associated with inadequate natural and/or artificial light.
    It includes the psychological effect associated with the view from the dwelling through glazing.
    Health effects...

    The health conditions which can be caused by inadequate light include:

    a)  Depression and psychological effects caused by a lack of natural light or the lack of a window with a view.

    b)  Disturbance by intrusive artificial external lighting at night.

    c)  Eye strain from glare and a lack of adequate light (natural or artificial).

    d)  Flicker caused by certain types of artificial light causes discomfort and may cause photo convulsive reactions to those susceptible.

    The elderly and those with impaired vision are more likely to be unable to detect potential hazards, where there is inadequate or excessive light.

    In addition, the vision of the elderly is slow to adjust to changes in light levels.

    16. Food Safety

    Threats of infection resulting from inadequacies in provision and facilities for the storage, preparation and cooking of food.

    Health effects...
    Foods (and liquids such as milk) can become a source of food poisoning through contamination, the multiplication of micro-organisms through poor or inappropriate storage, or through inadequate cooking.
    llnesses resulting from food poisoning range from mild stomach upset through to death from infectious gastro-intestinal disease, or hospital admission because of severe diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration. However, the majority of mild gastro-intestinal infections which result from food poisoning go unreported (and so are not included in the statistical evidence).

     

    It is estimated that in the general UK population there are 86,000 cases of food poisoning annually.

    It is estimated that at least 50% of these cases arise in the home, with some estimates putting the figure even higher – 86% for Salmonella and 97% for Campylobacter.

    18. Water Supply

    This category covers the quality and adequacy of the supply of water within the dwelling for drinking and for domestic purposes such as cooking, washing, cleaning and sanitation.
    As well as the adequacy, it includes threats to health from contamination by bacteria, protozoa, parasites, viruses, and chemical pollutants.
    Health effects...
    In the UK, the main threats to health from water result from contamination.
    Microbiological pathogens which affect drinking water typically cause gastro-intestinal illness. Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium are the most common causes of gastro- intestinal illness associated with drinking water.
    Legionella, which typically causes respiratory infection, also presents an infection risk from domestic water systems.

    Young children and the immuno-compromised are most at risk from ingested pathogens, and the elderly and immuno-compromised are most at risk from Legionella.

    Contamination by radon and lead are dealt with separately.

     

    The quality of water supplied from public mains is outside the HHSRS assessment and is subject to separate controls.

    21. Falling on Stairs etc.

    This category covers any fall associated with a stairs, steps and ramps where the change in level is greater than 300mm. It includes falls associated with:

    Internal stairs or ramps within the dwelling;

    External steps or ramps within the curtilage of the dwelling;

    Internal common stairs or ramps within the building containing the dwelling and giving access to the dwelling, and those to shared facilities or means of escape in case of fire associated with the dwelling; and

    External steps or ramps within the curtilage of the building containing the dwelling and giving access to the dwelling, and those to shared facilities or means of escape in case of fire associated with the dwelling.

    It includes falls over guarding (balustrading) associated with the stairs, steps or ramps.

    Health effects...

    Falls on stairs account for around 25% of all home falls (fatal and non-fatal).

    Although fewer falls occur on stairs than on the level, stair falls are much more likely to lead to a Class 1 outcome.

    After the age of 40 men are much more likely to die of a fall on stairs or steps in the home than women.

    In the age bands 40 to 64, and 75+, a man is almost twice as likely to die from a fall on stairs/steps at home than a woman in the same age band. In the age bands 65 to 74, a man is more likely to die from a fall than a woman, although the difference between the sexes is less marked.

    Any fall can result in physical injury, such as bruising, fractures, head, brain and spinal injuries and may even be fatal. The nature of injury is dependent on the distance of a fall, and nature of the surface(s) collided with, as well as on the age and fragility of the person.

     

    Although typically the harm suffered from a fall is a physical impact type of injury, the health of an elderly person can deteriorate generally following a fall. Their cause of death within weeks or months of the initial fall injury can be cardio-respiratory illness, including heart attack, stroke and pneumonia.

    28. Position and Operability of Amenities etc.

    Threats of physical strain associated with functional space and other features at dwellings.

    Read More
    Strain and sprain injuries are the obvious injuries resulting from poor ergonomics.
    This hazard can lead to other injuries where a person is forced to stretch or lean awkwardly to reach a handle, catch or switch. This may include fall injuries.

    2. Excess Cold

    Threats to health from sub-optimal indoor temperatures

    Health effects...

    Fuel gases can cause asphyxiation. This occurs when the fuel gas builds up within the dwelling, displacing the air to such an extent that the occupants are unable to obtain sufficient oxygen to breathe.

    The critical oxygen level resulting in asphyxiation is 14% (normal levels being around 21%).

    The number of fatalities varies from year to year and may be anything from less than 10 to around 40.

    Very young children (those aged under 5 years) are most likely to suffer injury as a result of exposure to uncombusted fuel gas.

    Elderly persons, aged 60 years or more, are also vulnerable because, although they are the least likely to be involved in such an accident, the proportion of fatalities is comparatively high.

    Pregnant women are also vulnerable.

    5. Biocides

     

    Threats to health from those chemicals used to treat timber and mould growth in dwellings.
    Health effects...
    Biocides are intended to prevent growth or development of insects, fungi, moulds and bacteria, or kill those already present. The potential for harm to human health varies depending on the particular biocide.
    The main health risk is from inhalation, although skin contact and ingestion may also be an issue, particularly for small children.

    7. Lead

    Threats to health from the ingestion of lead.

    There are two main sources of lead within dwellings – paint and water pipes.

    In addition, there may be residual lead in soil close to busy roads from the exhaust fumes from leaded petrol
      Health effects...
      Lead is a heavy metal, which, when ingested accumulates in the body, and has toxic effects on the nervous system, cognitive development and blood production.

      Continual exposure at low levels has been shown to cause mental retardation and behavioural problems in children.

      Lead is readily absorbed from the intestinal tract, especially in children, and its absorption is enhanced by dietary deficiency of iron and calcium. There are around 100 cases a year of acute lead poisoning, most of which are attributed to ingestion
      of lead from paint.

      There are up to about 10 fatalities each year result from lead poisoning. However, the most prevalent risk is Intelligence Quotient (IQ) deficiency in children, rather than acute poisoning. Even with relatively low levels of lead in blood, there are indications that it affects the IQ of children.

       

       

      9. Uncombusted Fuel Gas

      This category covers the threat of asphyxiation resulting from the escape of fuel gas into the atmosphere within a dwelling.

      Health effects...

      Fuel gases can cause asphyxiation. This occurs when the fuel gas builds up within the dwelling, displacing the air to such an extent that the occupants are unable to obtain sufficient oxygen to breathe.

      The critical oxygen level resulting in asphyxiation is 14% (normal levels being around 21%).

      The number of fatalities varies from year to year and may be anything from less than 10 to around 40.

      Very young children (those aged under 5 years) are most likely to suffer injury as a result of exposure to uncombusted fuel gas.

      Elderly persons, aged 60 years or more, are also vulnerable because, although they are the least likely to be involved in such an accident, the proportion of fatalities is comparatively high.

      Pregnant women are also vulnerable.

      (Note: Poisonings associated with incomplete combustion of gas and the spilling back of combustion products into a dwelling are covered under Carbon Monoxide Risk, and explosions from gas leakages are covered by Explosions Risk.)

      12. Entry by Intruders

      This covers difficulties in keeping a dwelling secure against unauthorised entry and the maintenance of defensible space.
      Health effects...

      Potential effects are:

       

      a)  the fear of a possible burglary occurrence or recurrence;

       

      b)  the stress and anguish caused by a burglary; and

       

      c)  injuries caused to occupants by an intruder (aggravated burglary).

       

       

      The most common harm suffered as a result of burglary, or fear of burglary, is emotional stress, with 28% of victims being affected “very much”, 31% “quite a lot”, and 24% “just a little”37.

      The emotional impact is greater for burglaries where there is successful entry to the dwelling.

      14. Noise

      Threats to physical and mental health resulting from exposure to noise inside the dwelling or within its curtilage.

      Health effects...
      Psychological disturbances and physiological changes resulting from annoyance and sleep disturbance.
      Typical health effects are stress responses, sleep disorders and lack of concentration. Headaches, anxiety and irritability are also associated with noise induced stress, and the effects of sleep disturbance may affect mood the following day.
      Extreme psychological outcomes include suicide, and assault due to aggravation over noise. However, hearing loss and impairment caused by noise in dwellings is unlikely.

      15. Domestic Hygiene, Pests and Refuse

      Hazards which can result from:
      Poor design, layout and construction such that the dwelling cannot be readily kept clean and hygienic;
      Access into, and harbourage within, the dwelling for pests; and
      Inadequate and unhygienic provision for storing and disposal of household waste.
      Health effects...

      Health outcomes are gastro-intestinal disease (from spread of infection), and asthma and allergic rhinitis (from allergens).

      Household waste may, in addition, present a physical hazard of cuts to young children. Emotional distress is also commonly associated with pest infestations, and accumulations of refuse. Premises which are difficult to keep clean may be a cause of depression and anxiety.

       

      Insect pests can cause allergic reactions. Children who live in dwellings visibly infested with cockroaches show high levels of sensitivity to cockroach allergen.

      Contact with cockroaches can cause dermatitis, uticaria, rhinitis, bronchitis and asthma. Some people have an aversion to cockroaches amounting to a phobia and can suffer anxiety when in the presence of the insects.

      Insects are also responsible for food spoilage, rendering it unpalatable if not inedible. Insect pests, including flies and cockroaches, are known to be mechanical vectors of diseases, picking up disease causing organisms on their bodies from one source and transferring it. Their behaviour means that they travel from matter such as rotting garbage and animal fæces that are infected to food intended for human consumption.

      Rats and mice are known to be infected with pathogenic organisms. Rats have been found to be infected with such zoonotic agents as Yersinia entercolitica (Yersiniosis),Listeria spp (Listeriosis), Cryptosporidium parvum (Cryptosporidiosis), Toxoplasma gondii (Toxoplasmosis), Leptospira spp (Leptospiral Jaundice or Weil’s disease),Trichinella spiralis and Trichuris spp (Whipworm infection).

      Birds, such as pigeons, can cause nuisance, carry diseases including Salmonella and can harbour biting insect pests such as the Martin Bug in their nests.

      Note that hazards associated with sanitation and drainage, domestic water, personal washing facilities and food safety are each dealt with as separate hazards.

      19. Falls associated with Baths etc.

      This includes any fall associated with a bath, shower or similar facility.

      Health effects...
      The most common injuries that result from falls associated with a bath, shower or similar facility are cuts or lacerations (27%), swelling or bruising (26%), or fractures (11%).
      Because of the many hard projections and surfaces found in bathrooms, and that the user may be unprotected by clothing, outcomes from a fall are likely to be more severe than in other areas.

      Although typically the harm suffered from a fall is a physical impact type of injury, the health of an elderly person can deteriorate generally following a fall, and the cause of death of an elderly person within weeks or months of the initial fall injury can be cardio-respiratory illness, including heart attack and pneumonia.

      Children younger than 5 years are most likely to fall in the bath or shower. However, the elderly are most at risk because of the more severe health outcomes.

      22. Falling between Levels

      Falls from one level to another, inside or outside a dwelling, where the difference in levels is more than 300mm.
      It includes, for example, falls out of windows, falls from balconies or landings, falls from accessible roofs, into basement wells, and over garden retaining walls.
      Health effects...

      Falls result in physical injury, including: bruising; puncture injuries; fractures; and head, brain and spinal injuries. The nature of injury is in part dependent on the distance of a fall, and in part dependent on the nature of the surface collided with.

      Falls from windows, landings and balconies is an important cause of death within the under five age group because the underlying rate of death for children is low. This is one of the more common causes of death for children (and, for that matter, young adults) – the low average hazard scores reflecting the fact that at this age people are unlikely to die, from whatever cause..

       

       

      There are around 50 fatal falls from windows in domestic buildings each year, and around 2,300 non-fatal cases treated in hospitals.

      There are around 8 fatal domestic balcony falls each year.

      24. Fire

      Threats from exposure to uncontrolled fire and associated smoke at a dwelling.

      It includes injuries from clothing catching alight on exposure to an uncontrolled fire, which appears to be common when people attempt to extinguish such a fire.

      Health effects...
      The most common cause of death from a fire (around 38%) is being overcome by gas or smoke.
      Around 26% of deaths are attributed jointly to both burns and being overcome by gas or smoke, and 25% of deaths are the result of burns alone. 
      Although children are more likely to be exposed to fire, the elderly are more than three times as likely to die from a fire, and therefore are more at risk. People over 80 years of age have the highest rate of deaths per million population, and 36% of fire deaths are to people over 65 years of age.
      This hazard  does not include injuries caused by clothing catching alight from a controlled fire or flame, which may be caused by reaching across a gas flame or an open fire used for space heating. (see 25)

      26. Collision and Entrapment

      Risks of physical injury from:
      a)  trapping body parts in architectural features, such as trapping limbs or fingers in doors or windows; and
      b)  striking (colliding with) objects such as architectural glazing, windows, doors, low ceilings and walls.
      Health effects...
      The most common type of door accident involves a door shutting on, or trapping, part of a body (39% of door accidents).
      Collisions with doors is the next most common (37% of accidents). Most door accidents, particularly a door shutting on part of the body, involve children aged 9 years and under.
      Accidents involving door glazing (15% of door accidents) are most likely to occur to young adults (20 to 29 years).

      3. Excess Heat

      Threats from excessively high indoor air temperatures
      Health effects...
      As temperatures rise, thermal stress increases, initially triggering the body’s defence mechanisms such as sweating. 
      High temperatures can increase cardiovascular strain and trauma, and where temperatures exceed 25°C, mortality increases and there is an increase in strokes. 
      Dehydration is a problem primarily for the elderly and the very young.

      6. Carbon Monoxide and Fuel Combustion Products

      Carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and smoke, are products associated with the combustion, or incomplete combustion, of gas, oil, and solid fuels for heating and cooking.
      Health Effects

      Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and extremely toxic gas.

      At high concentrations carbon monoxide can cause unconsciousness and death.

      At lower concentrations, it causes a range of symptoms from headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, and disorientation, to fatigue.  In people with ischaemic heart disease it can result in episodes of increased chest pain. Carbon monoxide may also impair foetal development.

      Nitrogen dioxide affects the respiratory system, damaging the lining of the airways. At low levels it may cause narrowing of the airways in asthmatics and may exacerbate reactions to allergens such as house dust mites

      8. Radiation

      This category covers the threats to health from radon gas and its daughters, primarily airborne, but also radon dissolved in water.

      Concern has been expressed (though not clearly proven) about the possible health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

      Health effects...

      Radiation is the process of energy emission as waves or particles. There are two forms – ionising and non-ionising.

      Ionising radiation, which includes alpha (a) particles resulting from the decay of radon, can pass through the tissues of the body and has sufficient energy to damage DNA and cause genetic mutation.

      Non-ionising radiation, such as ultraviolet radiation, microwave, and radio-frequency radiation, does not have sufficient energy to damage DNA directly.

      Radon gas is the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking, and most radon exposure occurs at home.

      Risk estimates suggest that up to one in 20 cases of lung cancer in the UK can be attributed to residential radon exposure, and this figure will be higher in some areas. This amounts to around 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year, of which 1,000 are in non-smokers.

      10. Volatile Organic Compounds

      Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a diverse group of organic chemicals which includes formaldehyde, that are gaseous at room temperature, and are found in a wide variety of materials in the home

      Health effects...
      The majority of individual VOCs that may be found in dwellings have no reported health effects. However, some may cause short term irritation and allergic reactions to the eyes, nose, skin and respiratory tract.
      Higher concentrations can result in headaches, nausea dizziness and drowsiness. Formaldehyde can be a particular problem, although sensitivity varies.
      Allergy sufferers, such as asthmatics, are most vulnerable, and may react to VOC exposure at levels below those that would affect others.

      Fire Risk Assessments

      Every HMO from 3 persons upwards MUST have a fire risk assessment (whether it needs a licence or not) .

      You can do these yourself if you are confident you can demonstrate that you’re a ‘competent person’.

      Or you can have our qualified Fire Risk Asssessors do it for you.

      Find out more about Fire Risk Assessment...

      Is a fire risk assessment mandatory – well it’s not a legislative requirement, as such.

      But heaven help you if there is a fire in your property and you are unable to produce one to the inquest. They will throw the book at you!

      So, any sensible landlord will make sure they have a regularly updated Fire Safety Assessment that is held off-site from the HMO.

      Contact us to undertake your Fire Risk Assessment.

      17. Personal Hygiene, Sanitation and Drainage

      Threats of infection and threats to mental health associated with personal hygiene, including personal washing and clothes washing facilities, sanitation and drainage.

      Health effects...
      The health outcomes from both poor personal hygiene and poor sanitation include gastro-intestinal illness, and, more rarely, skin infections.
      Illnesses resulting from gastro- intestinal infection can range from mild stomach upsets through to death from diarrhoeal and gastro-intestinal disease, and severe dysentery, and gastro-enteritis.

       

      There are between 2,000 and 20,000 notified cases of dysentery each year and in excess of 80,000 cases of viral gastro-enteritis. 

       

      Dysentery (Shigella sonnei) and rotavirus infections are frequent causes of diarrhoea carried by the faecal-oral route. Even if the illness is contracted elsewhere up to 50% of family members may become infected if the hygiene levels are poor.

       

      Although not a direct cause of physical illness, odours associated with poor hygiene, the visual appearance of facilities which are difficult to clean or have stained surfaces, damaged decoration and furnishings resulting from splashing or leaking appliances or drainage, can be a cause of stress and depression.

      This is particularly the case where the occupant has little control over the situation, typically in rented accommodation, and where facilities are shared.

      As well as causing anxiety and depression, it can also cause tension between people sharing facilities.

      It does not include problems with pests associated with defective drainage facilities.

      20. Falling on Level Surfaces etc.

      This category covers falling on any level surface such as floors, yards, and paths.
      It also includes falls associated with trip steps, thresholds, or ramps, where the change in level is less than 300mm.
      Health effects...
      Falls can result in physical injury, such as bruising, fractures, head, brain and spinal injuries. The nature of injury is in part dependent on the distance of a fall, and in part dependent on the nature of the surface onto which the victim falls.

      While falls on the level tend to result in relatively minor injuries than other falls, they occur more frequently.

      Following a fall, the health of an elderly person can deteriorate generally, and the cause of death following an initial fall injury can be cardio-respiratory.

      This may include heart attack and pneumonia, and may not necessarily result directly from the impact injury sustained at the time of the fall.

      23. Electrical Hazards

       

      Hazards from shock and burns resulting from exposure to electricity, including from lightning strikes.
      Health effects...
      When electricity passes through the human body, it causes shock to the nervous system.
      The shock effect ranges from mild tingling sensations to disruption of the normal regular contractions of the heart or respiratory muscles, causing death.
      Heat is generated which may result in burns. Such burns usually occur at the point of contact with the source of electricity.
      Injuries are primarily burns to the finger or thumb. The mouth is the second most frequent injury site.
      About half of electrical accidents in the home result in burns as well as shock.
       
      It does not include risks associated with fire caused by deficiencies to the electrical installations, such as ignition of material by a short-circuit

      25. Flames, Hot Surfaces etc.

      Threats of:
      a)  burns: injuries caused by contact with a hot flame or fire, and contact with hot objects or hot non-water based liquids; and
      b)  scalds: injuries caused by contact with hot liquids and vapours.
      Health effects...

      Burns or scalds in this hazard category account for the great majority of non-fatal burn accidents (burns caused by uncontrolled dwelling fires result in the most deaths).

      The severity of the burn or scald is dependent on its depth and the area covered. The depth of burn is dependent on the temperature of the hot object or liquid, the length of time of exposure, the time taken before corrective action is taken, and the length of time that cold water is applied. How long a hot material can be touched without damage to human tissue also depends on the material, as well as the temperature.

      Where the burn or scald is severe, it can result in permanent scarring. Apart from the obvious physical pain, many victims, and also parents of children that are burnt or scalded, suffer acute psychological distress for many years.

      Young children are particularly at risk of suffering severe injuries. Many of these victims suffer extensive full thickness burns and require plastic surgery, often for many years following the accident.
      The health outcome for the elderly is usually more serious than for all other age groups.

      27. Explosions

      Threat from the blast of an explosion, from debris generated by the blast, and from the partial or total collapse of a building as the result of an explosion.
      Health effects...
      While the average likelihood of an explosion is very small, explosions can result in extreme harm.

      There are around 10 deaths per year in dwellings as a result of explosions, and over 500 non-fatal accidents where the victim was struck by debris from an explosion.

       

      Typical injuries include crushing, bruising, puncture injuries, fractures, and head, brain and spinal injuries.

      If the explosion involves a hot water appliance, there may also be scalding.

      29. Structural Collapse and Falling Elements

      Threat of whole dwelling collapse, or of an element or a part of the fabric being displaced or falling because of inadequate fixing, disrepair, or as a result of adverse weather conditions.

      Structural failure may occur internally or externally within the curtilage threatening occupants, or externally outside the curtilage putting at risk members of the public.

      Health effects...
      Objects falling from the fabric of a building and as a result causing injury are extremely rare.
      Potential injuries range from minor bruising to death.