Written by: Joseph Fitzsimmons on Friday 14/10/2016
Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, Health & Safety awareness within a commercial property environment is essential. We take a look at the most important H&S rules to be aware of.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for implementing all the rules which keep people safe while they’re at their place of work. In the last year, 144 people were fatally injured at work mostly due to falling from heights, being struck by vehicles or being hit by moving objects. Many more suffered non-fatal injuries such as falls, slips and trips. Health and Safety legislation is designed to protect against such accidents and minimise their occurrence.
Strict penalties are imposed on those who allow, through negligence, accidents to occur – the most severe of which can result in two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine, under the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008. It’s in everyone’s best interest, therefore, to comply with the rules.
If the lease stipulates you as being responsible for safety on your commercial premises, it will fall to you to implement a health and safety risk assessment to determine possible fire risks within the building. The HSE has guidance on how this can be approached on its website.
Most leases will state that fire safety is your responsibility – check through the details carefully before you sign it. If it is, you must carry out a fire risk assessment in order to protect yourself and those people working for you.
Once a popular fire-retardant material, asbestos is now regarded as a major risk to health, causing lung diseases which are often untreatable. If your building dates from before the mid-80s there is a possibility that it may contain asbestos – a survey will clarify the situation. Again, the lease you draw up will state who has responsibility for maintaining a building which contains asbestos, but if it is found on the premises, a thorough risk assessment will be necessary. Strict penalties for not managing its risk can be incurred.
If you suspect that the premises you are renting contains asbestos you must check your lease to see if you are responsible for maintenance and repair. If it is unclear, the law will state that the party with the ‘greatest degree of control’ over the building has a legal duty to establish the presence of asbestos in order for a risk assessment or remedial work to be undertaken.
Unless you are supplying electrical equipment to tenants, your main responsibility will be to ensure that the wiring in your premises is safe and fit for purpose. This will mean having a certified safety check undertaken before the premises is let.
You must undertake a risk assessment of the equipment you intend to use on your rented premises and ensure that none of the equipment is faulty or is likely to cause harm. Check that your lease explicitly outlines your landlord’s responsibility for the maintenance of the wiring, and that he or she can provide a safety certificate.
If you supply any gas appliances to your tenants, such as water heaters, it is your responsibility to ensure that they have certified annual checks to guarantee their safety. Otherwise, you must ensure that, if your building has common areas, the heating equipment there is well maintained.
Generally it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of gas appliances in commercial buildings that you occupy. This includes appliances, pipe work and flues. Your lease should set out your exact responsibilities so it’s important that you understand what these entail.
Landlords and tenants alike must be absolutely clear what their responsibilities are for the health and safety of anyone who occupies a commercial property. To prevent injury or death and to avoid a large fine or possible imprisonment, leases should clearly outline who is accountable for each aspect of H&S. If you need help drawing up a lease or interpreting its clauses, or if you need guidance on any aspect of Health and Safety, contact a member of our team.