Sharing Responsibility for Health and Safety
Facilities managers are often responsible for shared premises, properties in which there are several businesses or other organisations, or for premises in which there are apartments. In this type of situation it is essential that responsibilities for health and safety and fire safety are clearly defined and understood by both managers and tenants alike.
Where several businesses/organisations operate in the same building the responsibilities for health and safety are shared in accordance with who has control over different aspects of the building. Landlords and managing agents need to ensure that the lease or commercial tenancy agreements clearly define who has responsibility for what. Lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities can lead to increased risks because safety is not adequately managed.
Where several businesses operate in the same building and share the use of common areas, landlords and managing agents have the responsibility for safety in these areas, unless the duties have been otherwise allocated in the contract. Thus, landlords and managing agents will usually be responsible for the health and safety of corridors, stairs and lifts, and for the provision and condition of common sanitary conveniences and washing facilities. On sites where there are traffic routes the landlord and managing agent will normally be responsible for the organisation and maintenance of the routes. The managing agent should ensure there are appropriate risk assessments for activities in common areas, e.g. for slips, trips and falls, cleaning operations and traffic operations.
Landlords’ responsibility for the tenant’s workplace depends on the extent of their control over the area. This should be clarified in the contract. Responsibilities that should be included in the contract include those for the fabric of the building, electricity and gas supply, heating and ventilation, waste disposal and, if supplied, plant. Of particular importance is the allocation of the responsibility for ensuring that measures are in place to control the risks of Legionnaires’ disease from hot and cold water systems, particularly wet air-conditioning systems.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require duty holders to find out if there is asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in non-domestic premises, to keep a record of the location and condition of the asbestos or ACMs, assess the risk from the asbestos, and prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risk is to be managed. Where there is asbestos or ACMs present in the building the key duty is to ensure that everyone who needs to know about the asbestos is told about its presence and those who might work on the material take adequate precautions. In most cases, the duty holder is the person or organisation that has clear responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises through an explicit agreement such as a tenancy agreement or contract.
It is therefore essential that the extent of the duty is clarified in the contract. In a building occupied by one leaseholder, it might be either the owner or leaseholder who takes on the full duty for the whole building; or the duty might be shared. In a building with several tenants the owner may take on the duty for the whole building, or the duty might be shared, e.g. with the owner taking responsibility for the common parts and the leaseholders taking responsibility for the parts they occupy.
Co-operation and co-ordination
Where two or more employers share a workplace, the Management Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 apply. These regulations require each employer to:
- Co-operate with the other employers concerned, so far as is necessary to enable them to comply with the health and safety legislation
- Take all reasonable steps to co-ordinate the measures they take to comply with the legislation with the measures taken by the other employers concerned.
In addition, each employer must take all reasonable steps to inform the other employers concerned of the risks to their employees’ health and safety arising out of, or in connection with, the conduct by them of their undertaking. The facilities manager will have to co-ordinate and co-operate with the tenants to ensure compliance with the health and safety duties.
Responsibility for fire safety
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the responsible person to:
- Carry out a fire risk assessment identifying any possible dangers and risks
- Eliminate or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible
- Provide general fire precautions to deal with any possible residual risk
- Create a plan to deal with any emergency.
Under the Order, anyone who has control of premises or anyone who has a degree of control over certain areas or systems may be a “responsible person”. In shared premises the responsible person for shared parts of premises or shared fire safety equipment, such as fire-warning systems or sprinklers, could be the managing agent or owner or any other person who has some control over a part of the premises.
It is likely that the facilities manager will have to co-operate with tenants to agree the emergency procedures and to arrange and carry out fire drills.
Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) the person responsible for reporting the death, specified injury, over-seven-day injury, or case of disease of an employee at work is the employee’s employer. However, the death, specified injury, over-seven-day injury, or case of disease of a self-employed person at work in premises under the control of someone else must be reported by the person in charge of the premises at the time of the event. Similarly the death, or injury requiring removal to a hospital for treatment of a person who is not at work (but is affected by the work of someone else), e.g. a member of the public, a student, a resident of a nursing home, must be reported by the person in control of the premises at the time. Once again, where there are shared areas, it is important to identify the person responsible for making reports in a given situation.
Whenever there are shared premises, it is essential that the facilities manager co-operates and co-ordinates with the leaseholders/tenants to clarify who holds the responsibility for health and safety.