BUILDING work on a tower block owned by Redbridge Homes is putting people’s lives in danger, residents have said.
Tenants of Liston Way, which is part of the Orchard Estate in Woodford Green, say work has started on three new flats for disabled people and that it is blocking a staircase at one end of the building, which could be a fire hazard.
They say the issue has left them feeling like they are being treated as "second class citizens".
Kevin Collins, 59, a warehouse administrator, lives on the seventh floor and has recently had open heart surgery.
He said: "I can't be running backwards and forwards in an emergency, trying to find access.
"If the lifts do go out and I'm coming back from work and want to get inside, I won't be able to.
The only other staircase, which is on the other side of the building, does not have outside access, he added.
Neighbour Margaret Askell, 48, said: “If there was a fire, you have to go down the right-hand side and you get trapped in a small courtyard down below.
“By the time the firemen get there, you’ve got 110 flats evacuated.”
She added that access for emergency vehicles was also being obstructed by skips and that residents had been told the blocked staircase would only be addressed if the lifts broke down.
A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s a total mess. If the lifts go out, people who are outside the building cannot get to their flats.
“It’s a disaster.”
The Orchard Estate was also a scene of tragedy last summer when grandmother Christine Allen was killed trying to get into a malfunctioning lift.
A Guardian investigation revealed widespread reports of faulty lifts in council-run tower blocks across the borough.
A Redbridge Homes spokesman said: "A fire risk assessment from both Redbridge Homes and our contractor and visits by the fire brigade have all taken place prior to work beginning.
"The contractors are currently on site preparing the area and under taking safety checks.
"Our contractors have co-operated fully with the fire brigade and have carried out their recommendations in preparation for the work to start.
"Due to the layout of Liston Way the access to the stairs on the ground floor has been blocked as this is where the works will take place.
"This does not block access to the fire door at the bottom of the stairs as an exit in an emergency.
"The fire door is exit only and therefore cannot be used to gain access to the building.
"Redbridge Homes consulted fully with the residents of Liston Way including holding an open meeting so that they could raise questions regarding the improvements and they were informed during this process that there would be no access to the stairs while works were taking place."