Ensuring Health & Safety in Property Management: A Comprehensive Guide

Good Health and Safety management is crucial for protecting businesses, owners, and their staff from criminal prosecution and personal injury claims. It also enhances the image and reputation of the company. In property management, issues such as fire safety, asbestos management, water safety, electrical safety, and the prevention of trips and falls can have serious effects on the Health and Safety of residents, visitors, employees, and contractors. Improper management of these issues can lead to injuries, fatalities, legal prosecution, financial loss, and damage to reputation.

Legal Duty

There is a legal obligation to establish suitable arrangements for managing Health and Safety. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 mandates that businesses have arrangements to control Health and Safety risks. Minimum requirements include:

  • A written Health and Safety policy
  • Risk assessments for employees, contractors, residents, and others, with significant findings recorded
  • Effective planning, organization, control, monitoring, and review of preventive measures
  • Access to competent Health and Safety advice
  • Information on risks and their control
  • Instruction and training for dealing with risks
  • Adequate and appropriate management
  • Consultation with affected parties about risks and preventive measures

All blocks of flats, including converted houses, must have a Health and Safety, including Fire Safety, risk assessment for communal areas, a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This includes all areas such as gardens, plant rooms, and lift motor rooms, which are frequently accessed by employees or contractors.

Communal Areas

Communal areas encompass not just the internal parts of a building but also the roof, structure, and external areas. When conducting a risk assessment, every area, including gardens and electrical intake rooms, must be included, as they are often attended by employees or contractors.

The responsibility for complying with Health & Safety regulations falls on the landlord or the person managing the building, which could be a managing agent, a Residents’ Management Company (RMC), or a Right to Manage Company (RTM). Ignoring Health & Safety due to cost can lead to greater expenses if an accident or injury occurs.


The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA)

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) is the cornerstone of workplace Health and Safety legislation in the UK. This comprehensive law ensures the well-being of employees, employers, and visitors. HASAWA mandates employer responsibilities, including:

  • Conducting regular risk assessments to identify hazards
  • Implementing Health and Safety measures
  • Establishing and communicating emergency procedures
  • Providing comprehensive Health and Safety information and training
  • Maintaining a safe workplace environment
  • Ensuring adequate first aid facilities
  • Complying with regulations on ventilation, temperature, lighting, and sanitation
  • Recording accidents

Employees also have responsibilities under HASAWA, such as:

  • Taking reasonable care of their own and others’ Health and Safety
  • Cooperating with employers on Health and Safety matters
  • Using equipment correctly
  • Avoiding misuse of Health and Safety provisions

Addressing Workplace Hazards

Maintaining a clean and hazard-free workspace is essential. If removing a hazard is not feasible, it should be clearly marked to prevent accidents. Employers and employees must work together to identify and mitigate risks.

Specific Health and Safety Regulations

  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992: Focuses on proper procedures for moving objects to prevent injuries.
  • Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992: Pertains to employees working with display screen equipment, ensuring standards are met, providing breaks, and offering eye tests if needed.

Health and Safety Beyond the Office

When employees visit properties for tasks like rental appraisals or viewings, they must take greater responsibility for their safety. Key steps include:

  • Arriving early to check for hazards
  • Conducting risk assessments and implementing safety precautions
  • Ensuring thorough pre-visit checks

Office Security Measures

Maintaining personal security in the office is as important as Health and Safety. Key security practices include:

  • Using exit and entry alarms
  • Remaining calm and in control during confrontational situations
  • Securing confidential information
  • Properly managing keys

Security Outside the Office

When conducting activities outside the office, such as property viewings, it’s crucial to prioritize security:

  • Planning routes and ensuring property safety
  • Communicating whereabouts and contact details
  • Carrying personal alarms or mobile phones
  • Being cautious of potential hazards

Property Management and the Health and Safety at Work Act

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), commercial property owners, landlords, and property managers are considered PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking). They have a duty of care to ensure Health and Safety for everyone involved with or affected by work on their property.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Commercial Property Owners/Landlords: Ensure Health and Safety for tenants, contractors, and visitors.
  • Property Managers: Ensure property management and control, ensuring safety for everyone involved.
  • Commercial Tenants: Have the same duty of care as other PCBUs to ensure Health and Safety.
  • Residential Tenants: Have responsibilities only when work is carried out on the property.

Overlapping Duties: When multiple businesses are involved, they must work together by consulting, cooperating, and coordinating their activities regarding workplace Health and Safety.

Bodies Corporate: Considered PCBUs with a duty to ensure Health and Safety. Officers, such as directors and board members, must ensure the organization manages risks effectively.

Rental Property Owners: Ensure that those engaged to work on the property are competent and qualified. Landlords are not responsible for tenants’ actions while living on the property but must ensure safety during work carried out on the property.

By adhering to these guidelines and responsibilities, property management professionals can ensure a safe and secure working environment, both in and out of the office. Regular training and vigilant risk assessments are key to maintaining high standards of Health and Safety.