Wednesday, 20 August 2014 17:23

Health and safety responsibilities rest with the property owner

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The health and safety buck stops with the property owner.

Anton Krause

New Construction Regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act have significantly increased the responsibilities of all property owners when appointing contractors to do any work on their buildings. Here's what you need to know.

If a property owner wants to do repairs, renovations or maintenance in fact, any work on his building, he needs to provide a Baseline Risk Assessment contained within a Health and Safety File in the tender or quoting process. This is so that prospective contractors are fully aware of any hazards or risks the work might entail. That's the law. But how many property owners actually do this?

Only about 2% of owners of existing properties, according to construction health and risk advisor Anton Krause, chairman of the Association of Construction Health & Safety Management.

Although property owners have been given until August 2015 to be fully compliant with the new legislation, until then they're still vulnerable to legal repercussions if something goes wrong and a contractor is injured on their property.

And this is especially pertinent where owners aren't in direct control of what happens on their premises: sectional-title properties, rental apartments, business complexes and multi-tenant office buildings are classic situations where tenants often embark on repairs, renovations, maintenance work or upgrades without informing the owner.

'Existing public liability insurance doesn't cover the property owner in these sorts of eventualities, which is why we've developed special cover for these types of risk,' says Henry Ansara, chief executive of SaXum Insurance. 'Our Occupational Health and Safety Insurance product is aimed at protecting property owners, body-corporate trustees and property managers from a wide range of risks associated with this new legislation, including public liability, professional indemnity, and directors' and officers' liability.'

'The starting point of this legislation is to produce a Baseline Risk Assessment, which is kept in a Health and Safety File for each building. It probably pays to enlist the services of a registered professional to assist in this process,' says Krause. 'It's difficult to give an accurate indication of the cost of such a document because it depends on the size and complexity of the actual building.

It's probably safe to say that an initial occupational health and safety survey and Baseline Risk Assessment (including the production of the building's Health and Safety File) would cost in the region of R5 000 for a building valued at less than R30 million. But this can vary substantially.'

Research shows that construction is one of the top five sectors in on-the-job injuries. The new construction regulations aim to reduce accidents and injuries to on-site workers.

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