Health and Safety
Health and Safety is a complex area involving legal responsibilities. Make sure that you research all areas fully. Official guidance can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Organisations taking on management of public buildings must check official HSE guidance on each relevant issue.
You are responsible for Health and Safety on a site from the moment you gain its possession. Before this point the previous owner, or in the case of a significant development a construction company will have had responsibility. Prepare and complete your research before this point so that you are ready straight away.
Make sure staff are trained to consider the Health and Safety implications in all decisions they make. A building is a dynamic environment with people and equipment constantly circulating. Carelessness and thoughtlessness are a significant cause of accidents.
At the design stage your architects and design team should advise on current Health and Safety regulations that must be considered in the plan. The most important consideration is arguably ensuring safe corridors to sufficient fire exits. However with any public building fire safety is a risk that cannot be underestimated and prevention is clearly better than cure.
Assessing such risks and appropriate measures to address them is now the responsibility of the organisation responsible for the premises under consideration. As such you are required to have carried out a fire safety risk assessment and have appointed a ‘responsible person’ to deal with such matters.
There are five key steps in a fire safety risk assessment:
- Identify fire hazards – e.g. how could a fire start? What could burn?
- Consider the people who may be a risk – e.g. employees, visitors to the premises, and anyone who may be particularly vulnerable such as children, the elderly and disabled people.
- Evaluate and act – think about what you have found in steps 1 and 2 and remove and reduce any risks to protect people and premises.
- Record, plan and train – keep a record of what risks you identified and what actions you have taken to reduce or remove them. Make a clear plan of how to prevent fires and, should a fire start, you will keep people safe. Make sure your staff know what to do in the event of a fire and if necessary that they are trained for their roles.
- Review – regularly review your risk assessment to ensure it remains up to date and reflects and changes that may have occurred.
Many businesses offer services to assist with these matters and your local fire authority may provide guidance and support. If you have tenants in parts of your building consult with them on fire procedure and encourage them to designate a fire marshal/ responsible person for their office.
All buildings should also have first-aiders on site at all times. Ideally all staff/volunteer workers should be trained. This avoids complications when organising shift patterns and planning annual leave. An accident book for the building should record all incidents. This will help identify any recurring issues and help you resolve them.
As an employer you have a duty of care towards your employees (including voluntary staff). This means protecting their physical and mental well-being while in the workplace. Make sure you comply with legal regulations, (such as the working time directive), and that support is provided in stressful situations.