How to keep on top of Health and Safety

Peter Silk, NEBOSH qualified Health, Safety and Fire risk assessor from 4Site Consulting advises

Accidents in blocks of flats, including houses that have been converted into flats, do occur occasionally. In the event of an accident or fire, the consequences can be serious, not only for those living at the property, but also for landlords . The best way to mitigate against such occurrences is to make sure you are aware of any health and safety issues within the property and how they are being addressed.

Where the word 'landlord' is used in this article, it also includes the person responsible for managing the building. That could be a managing agent, a Residents' Management Company (RMC) or a Right to Manage Company (RTM)

To do this you need to first: -

  • Undertake Health and Safety risk assessments of the communal areas. As well as the internal parts of the building such as entrance halls, corridors, stairwells, etc.; the grounds, car parks and other external areas should also be included. The risk assessments need to include areas such as meter cupboards, storage areas, lifts and lift motor rooms, plant rooms, refuse areas.
  • Undertake Fire Safety risk assessments including internal and external communal areas, as above.

NOTE: Risk assessments should be carried out by an appropriately competent person.

The risk assessments will identify any hazards, who is at risk and if anything needs to be done to remove or reduce that risk. Ensure that any measures identified as a result of the risk assessment are implemented and maintained.

There are a number of ways to keep on top of health and safety matters within your property, such as: -

  • Develop and implement a Property Inspection procedure for the communal areas that includes health and safety hazards, safe access and egress for the property, lighting, fire/smoke detection equipment, means of escape (including fire doors), electrical and gas supplies, water systems and any deterioration of the property.
  • Ensure an asbestos survey is undertaken for any building constructed before 2000 and identify how this is monitored and controlled.
  • Devise and implement a water hygiene management system to ensure water tank systems are kept free from risk of Legionella.
  • Ensure contracts are in place for the testing and servicing by a competent contractor of emergency lighting, fire alarm systems, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems and firefighting rising mains where applicable.
  • Ensure the communal electrical installations have been tested as recommended by a NICEIC registered contractor within the maximum period of 5 years for residential premises. Include fittings such as the sockets, fuse boards, car-park lights, etc. Also, ensure electrical cupboards are kept locked shut to prevent unauthorised access and there is sufficient hazard warning signage on the doors.
  • Ensure contracts are in place, where applicable, for the thorough examination by a competent contractor of any lifting equipment.
  • Where applicable, implement an inventory of all portable electric appliances and employ a competent electrical contractor to test (PAT) all such equipment.
  • Undertake COSHH assessments if any substances are being stored in communal areas, e.g., gardening chemicals, cleaning fluids, etc. Devise and implement a programme to regularly review the COSHH assessments and collate a Hazardous Substances Register to include any hazardous substances used on site. If a contractor is supplying their own materials, then the landlord should obtain a COSHH assessment from them.
  • Ensure an accident book or other suitable recording system is in place and maintained up to date for all accidents/incidents that occur within the landlord’s areas. RIDDOR regulations require serious work related accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences to be reported. Even if a landlord or managing agent uses a self-employed contractor to work at a block of flats, it's still their duty to report an accident to the contractor. The duty also applies if a member of the public is injured at the block.
Ultimately, the landlord has a legal duty to comply with health and safety regulations. By taking into account the suggestions within this advice, you will be able to keep on top of any health and safety issues within the property and how they are being addressed.

Remember directors and managers can be held personally responsible for failures to control health and safety.

4site Consulting Limited is an independent Health & Safety Consultancy providing a 'one stop shop' range of specialist compliance services for owners, occupiers/tenants and managers of commercial property and residential blocks.