Health and Safety Feature
Health and Safety in Your Block
Belinda Thorpe, MD of Residentsline looks at the primary concerns for all those looking after buildings.
Health and Safety is a primary concern for all residential (as well as commercial) buildings. This includes your block of flats – should any accidents happen, steps will normally be taken to judge whether the reason behind the accident could have been prevented. This means that those in charge of the maintenance of the block, i.e. the Residents’ Management Company (RMC) or Right to Manage (RTM) Company, could be held accountable. Health and safety standards are of the utmost importance to the successful running of a block of flats, and when these standards are broken, it can lead to serious consequences.
Who is Responsible?
The RMC are responsible for anybody they choose to employ on either a part-time, full-time or casual basis. However, this responsibility also extends to anybody visiting the property, meaning RMC’s need to be incredibly vigilant in their efforts to maintain sufficient health and safety checks, reviews, attention to requirements and documentation of the same.
According to Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, risk assessments must be carried out to ensure that the property is safe for any contractors or workers, meaning it is very important for RMC’s to be aware of their obligations. If you are unsure as to the full extent of your responsibilities, you can contact your local authority to find out more. Flat Living has an assessment and audit guide available to purchase online.
Slips, Trips and Hazards
It is important to remember that maintenance and health and safety standards often go hand-in-hand. Most health and safety-related accidents are a result of a slip or trip and can be very serious. Now, whilst RMC’s cannot be liable for mere clumsiness, they must ensure that they are doing everything they can so as not to cause somebody to fall. This means ensuring that pathways, rooms, corridors, halls, driveways, roads and courtyards etc. are clear of any debris or tripping hazards, as well as any spillages.
Tripping hazards could be defined as anything from rickety stairs or a misplaced box to broken handrails and insecure carpets. For outside the premises, branches and rocks must be removed from footpaths, and trees must be maintained to avoid injury (especially following severe weather). It is also important to note that loose tiles may pose a risk to anybody using the outdoor area or walking past.
In a similar way, poor lighting can contribute to accidental falls, slips or trips. Thus, it is crucial to ensure that pathways, corridors or outside areas are always lit properly to allow residents or visitors to properly navigate their way around the premises. These issues must be addressed as soon as possible by the RMC, as they can become very difficult situations if not handled with care.
Since 1st October 2006, every block of flats is legally required to undertake a fire safety risk assessment. Again, this applies to common parts, not to the inside of any flats and is an obligation on the landlord. Fire Officers will be able to enter any block of flats to inspect, ask to see the risk assessment and issue enforcement notices to improve fire safety should the need arise.
Electrical Equipment Safety
If electrical equipment is supplied by the landlord or agent to say a cleaner, then it must be regularly tested and properly maintained.
A visual inspection and a more formal test should be carried out at the intervals recommended by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Legionella is a bacterium commonly found in water systems. Infection can result in Legionnaires’ disease, which can be fatal. Keeping the risks of Legionella at bay are crucial to the health of the block, and every step should be taken to ensure contamination is avoided.
Once again, the landlord or agent of a block of flats has a duty to control the risks of Legionella in any pipes, tanks and taps in common parts (including a cleaner’s cupboard).
Cold water tanks, taps and showers within lessees’ flats are the responsibility of the lessees, unless the lease places repairing responsibility for them on the landlord.
The starting point to ensuring health and safety measures are upheld is a risk assessment, usually carried out by an expert. If any risks are identified, then a written action plan should be produced to reduce the risks.
An annual review of the risk assessment should also be made.
For any Residents’ Management Company (RMC) that employs staff, (for example, cleaners etc.) the installation of safety signs is part of their legal responsibility to ensure their employees’ and the general public’s health, safety and welfare at work.
Safety signs are required to alert people to the hazards around them and to show safe working procedures.
There are a number of styles of safety signs. The use of a certain type depends on the message that the sign carries.
Green Signs can either tell people the location of certain safety equipment, like first aid equipment, and where fire exits are located.
Red Signs are used solely to show the location of fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment.
Blue Circles give orders: you need to do whatever is written on the sign. In blocks of flats, a prime example would be a fire action notice.
Red Circles with a diagonal line through show that you cannot do whatever is shown on the sign. For example, no smoking signs.
Yellow Triangles are used to make people aware of something that is dangerous, for example asbestos.
Many places of work now require health and safety signs by law. Signs are used to ensure that they are “multi-lingual”, so that they can be quickly understood without worrying about language barriers.
Property Owners and Employers Liability Insurance
Poor health and safety standards can very easily lead to accidents taking place within your block of flats. This, in turn, can very easily lead to claims being made against the RMC. Should any situation escalate to this point, it is wise to have legal protection in place to protect the RMC against any claims.
Specialist Flats Insurance policies will normally cover Property Owners Liability, and Employers Liability Insurance. Check your policy to make sure you are protected.
Residentsline’s Flats Insurance Policy automatically provides Property Owners Liability and Employers Liability at £10,000,000. For more information or a quotation, please call us on 0800 281 235, or visit our website at www.residentsline.co.uk
Belinda Thorpe is the Managing Director of Residentsline
Residentsline’s sole focus has always been insurance for flats. Today, 22 years on, Residentsline has grown to be recognised as understanding the intricacies, risks and requirements that are unique to the flats market.
The team of dedicated, friendly insurance experts are passionate about delivering superior products and excellent customer service, making life easier for you.