The importance of risk management

However well run your block and however conscientious your RMC, RTMCo or property manager may be, bad things sometimes happen.  The cost of putting things right may be covered by insurance or you may be able to make a claim against another party.  However, no amount of money can truly compensate for serious loss, damage injury or even death and there is also the disruption, stress and other hidden costs that can arise from even the smallest of events.

In order to try and keep these dangers to a minimum, risk management should be at the top of all our agendas. Unfortunately for many people these words strike a note of fear – risk management sounds suspiciously as if it might involve a consultant, a pile of paperwork and a price tag to match. However, that is not necessarily the case. If you live in a very large apartment block with hundreds of residents, assessing risk may be very complex but, for most of us,  risk management is simply about looking at the risks or hazards that may arise in your development and then putting in place sensible measures to control and prevent them. It covers all the processes involved in identifying, assessing and judging risks, assigning ownership, taking actions to mitigate or anticipate them, and monitoring and reviewing progress.  

Good risk management helps reduce hazards and builds confidence to innovate and improve.  It will also help prevent claims against the residential management company and its directors for loss, damage or injury and will enable your block to reach its full potential in terms of saleability and market value.

There are all types of hazards and health and safety issues associated with blocks of flats - all of which are a subject in their own right. These include:

  • Fire, storm, flood, theft, impact, subsidence and other insurable risks
  • The condition of the building and building maintenance works, including regulatory passenger lift inspections
  • Working at height
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Water, gas and electrical installations and portable appliances such as those subject to PAT testing
  • The use of hazardous substances such as cleaning fluids, pesticides and asbestos containing materials
  • Diseases and infections which might be caused by rodents; tetanus or even Legionella, which can grow in hot and cold water systems
  • Waste management
  • Manual handling of heavy loads
  • Violence and threatening behaviour
  • Working alone

Those at risk include occupants, employees, contractors, suppliers and other visitors, as well as neighbours and the general public

Any risk assessment should be carried out with reference to the lease, which will help to identify who is responsible for what.  Many of the actions will fall to the managing agent or RMC but some may fall to the landlord, caretaker and other parties. 

Apart from the obvious advantages in terms of improving the safety of residents, one of the other plus points of good risk management is that it may have a positive impact on block insurance premiums. While it would be unfair - and probably untrue - to suggest that a proactive approach to risk will have an immediate impact on the price you pay for insurance, what we can say is those that take risk management seriously tend to have fewer accidents and so over time are likely to pay significantly less for their insurance.

It should also be remembered that even if you have taken out the most comprehensive insurance policy to cover your building, this should be accompanied by a reinstatement cost assessment for insurance purposes to ensure the property is insured for the correct amount and to obtain the full benefit from the policy. In fact, this should be part of your risk assessment!

Time taken now to prevent accidents, loss or damage and also in ensuring that your property is adequately insured will provide confidence and peace of mind for you and your fellow residents that any potential incidents and disruption will be kept to a minimum.  Such action will also ensure that if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a loss that is covered by insurance, your insurer will be able to deal with your claim in a more timely and effective manner than if you simply leave these things to chance.

Roger Corp is a Director with Barrett Corp & Harrington Ltd

Tel: 0844 412 4495

Email: info@bch.uk.com

Website: www.bch.uk.com

Managing your risk

If you do not already have a risk assessment in place and you live in a large development, talk to your property manager or RMC about commissioning one from a risk consultant. You may be able to put one together yourselves but it may prove complex if there are a large number of flats or more than one block involved. If you live in a small block you should be able to produce your own. The process is not complicated and the Health & Safety Executive has a useful guide on its website at www.hse.gov.uk  Just search ‘five steps to risk assessment’ on the home page.