Health and Safety Issues to be aware of

Health & Safety – General

The following summarises the main health and safety regulations that apply to blocks of flats. There are many others.

  • The duty to comply with the regulations falls on the landlord or person responsible for management which could be an agent, a resident management company or a right to manage company.
  • Health & safety should never be ignored or dismissed because it requires additional expenditure as the cost of failing to comply if there is an accident or injury may be far greater than the cost to comply.

Risk Assessment of Communal Areas

All blocks of flats must have a risk assessment carried out on the health and safety of any common areas. It is a requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. You may argue common areas are not “at work” but if any cleaner, gardener, managing agent or repair contractors enters them, then a risk assessment must be made.

Remember to include all areas including gardens, grounds, plant rooms, meter cupboards and lift motor rooms.

If there are no employees of the landlord working at the block there is no requirement to record the risk assessment but it would be “best practise” to do so anyway as if there were to be an accident and you had no proof of a risk assessment being carried out, you are much more likely to be prosecuted and/or sued for negligence.

The risk assessment should be looked at annually to reassess the situation.

Fire Safety

Since 1st October 2006 every block of flats will require 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.

For details of Bureau Veritas who can provide a Fire Risk Survey for your RMC.

Working at Heights

Work at heights can be at any height if a person could be injured falling from it, even if below ground level.

If window cleaners or other contractors visit a block of flats, then an assessment of the risk from working at height is required.

Part of the duty to assess risk will obviously fall on the window cleaner, but the landlord or his agent once again also has a duty.

The principle is that any work at height should be avoided if it is practical to do it in another way. It if cannot be avoided, then the work must be assessed and planned to be done with the least risk.

Work at height can include changing light bulbs, general cleaning, testing smoke detectors and cleaning gutters. If a ladder is supplied by the landlord for changing light bulbs or checking smoke detectors, it should be checked regularly and a notice stuck on it with safety precautions for its use.

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

Legionella is a bacteria common in water systems which can result in legionnaires’ disease.

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 puts repairing responsibility for them on the landlord.

The starting point is a risk assessment usually carried out by an expert, and if there are risks then a written action plan should be produced to reduce the risks.

An annual review of the risk assessment should be made.