If you are in charge of a block of flats, you know there are certain laws and regulations you need to keep to in order to keep everyone safe and happy, whether they are a resident, a worker, or a visitor.
Health and safety should never be ignored or dismissed because not only can the cost be astronomical if an accident happens, but you can get in trouble with the law.
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 practice” 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.
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 (which is the individual owner’s responsibility) 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.
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 cleaning windows, 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.
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 flats are the responsibility of the owners of that flat, unless the building 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.
By keeping to these main health and safety risk points, you should be safe from most dangers, but be sure to look up exactly what you are responsible for on your building lease, and put assessments and procedures in place to protect you, your workers, your residents, and visitors.
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