Health and Safety Compliances that Should be Expected from Managing Agents

Gregg Masters, Commercial Director at 4site Consulting addresses the ways in which a managing agent should be ensuring the safety of the communal areas.

The ‘responsible person’ for a site is accountable for ensuring that it is Safe. Concerning property, the appointed responsible person is usually the freeholder, however, it is often delegated to a property management company and subsequently, an individual Property Manager.

Property Managers have a myriad of duties; one of which is to ensure that the properties they manage are compliant with Health and Safety Law. This can be a varied task in itself since managing agents are required to ensure that their properties are safe from an assortment of risks, such as fire, and slips, trips and falls. Though Health and Safety may only be one aspect of Property Manager’s duties, it should be taken seriously as failure to comply can have serious legal and financial implications and in more serious incidents, can even result in injury or fatality. Thankfully, in most cases, Managing Agents do take health and safety very seriously.

The body which enforces Health and Safety matters is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE); although some matters are enforced by local authorities and the fire service handles fire enforcement. Some of the main applicable legislations include: The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Guidance on complying with the law is contained in Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs), such as L8 Approved Code of Practice, and in various HSE, Fire Authority or Local Government guidance notes.

Health and Safety

One of the first steps in the Health and Safety management of residential property is to control the risks associated with the property. In order to do so, a Health and Safety Risk Assessment should be carried out in the communal areas. This can include shared stairways, corridors, and even external areas such as the roof and carparks.

Most Risk Assessments will also identify legal or management non-compliances that need to be actioned accordingly. Some examples of legal or management non- compliances that could be recorded on a Health and Safety Report are as follows:

  • No assessments received for works undertaken by contractors.
  • No evidence of an asbestos survey or register.
  • No evidence of a Legionella Risk Assessment.
  • No portable electrical appliances have been tested.
  • No evidence of Property Inspection being carried out on a regular basis through lack of inspection records.

Any hazards identified which pose a significant risk and non-compliances will need to be actioned by the responsible person (i.e. the Property Manager). It is a legal requirement to review Risk Assessments to keep up with any changes that may occur at the property.

Law

  • Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Over 20 other specific Regulations

Fire Safety

The responsible person, i.e. Managing Agents, are also responsible for ensuring their sites are safe from fire risk. Therefore, they must carry out or commission a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA); this can be combined with the Health and Safety Risk Assessment to create one report or can be carried out separately. Much like the Health and Safety Risk Assessment, the report for the FRA should be managed and actioned accordingly.

Managing agents will need to ensure that they liaise with tenants and form an emergency plan for the property. They should also have flat entrance and other fire doors inspected to ensure they are compliant and provide resistance to smoke or fire for at least 30 minutes.

Fire Officers and other authorities can enter a block of flats at any time, and request to see the Risk Assessment. Therefore, it is vital that the site has an up-to-date report and that it is being efficiently managed by the responsible person. Fire Officers may also issue enforcement letters or notices after visiting sites - usually if they find serious fire risks that are not being managed. The enforcement notice will state what needs to be done and by when; failure to comply with an enforcement notice could lead to prosecution.

Law

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Asbestos

If a property was built before the year 2000, there is a high chance it may contain asbestos. In order to comply with the law, Managing Agents should ensure an Asbestos Management Survey has been carried out to locate – as far as reasonably practicable – the presence and extent of any potential asbestos containing materials (ACMs). With this, the Surveyor will take samples of presumed asbestos areas, and have these tested. The Management Survey should produce an Asbestos Register which identifies the location and condition of ACMs, so that you can inform contractors who may need to work close to those areas.

If ACMs are in poor condition, it may be suggested that they are removed. Managing Agents should arrange for a qualified and licensed removal company to carry this work out. In many cases, asbestos does not have to be removed. In which case, yearly Asbestos Re-Inspection Surveys will need to be conducted to ensure that it is being managed safely, and that the condition has not changed.

Law

  • Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012
  • Duty to Manage Asbestos in Non-Domestic Premises (Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012)

Legionella

In general, the risk from Legionella tends to be forgotten amongst other high-profile Health and Safety concerns. However, Legionella bacteria can be found in any water system that is left dormant with the ability to stagnate. Managing Agents have a duty to prevent or control the risk of exposure to Legionella.

Therefore, they will need to have a Legionella Risk Assessment carried out by a competent person. If the Risk Assessment identifies the need for on-going monitoring and management, then managing agents will need to ensure that the water system is regularly checked and that a log book is being used to record test results.

Law

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and Register of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
  • Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Regulation 5)

Conclusion

Of course, residents are responsible for keeping their own private dwellings safe. However, they are reliant on their Managing Agents to ensure the safety of the communal areas. As such, residents should expect that managing agents are complying with the various health and safety laws and guidance’s and that they are communicating their health and safety procedures with the tenants.

This article has outlined only some of the duties that Managing Agents must comply with. For more information please contact the 4site Consulting team who will be happy to advise further.

Reviewed: July 2019