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Health and Safety

The division of duty between landlords and tenants on health and safety issues can often be unclear as the law does not explicitly delineate between the duties of an employer and a landlord when these are two separate entities. It can also vary depending on the type of office space you occupy, and the responsibility you have for repair and maintenance in your lease. The 'key table' in each section below shows where the responsibilities usually divide.

As a general rule, if a tenant occupies the entire premises under a full repairing and insuring lease then they have both the landlord and tenant responsibilities for the health and safety matters highlighted in the tables below. If a building is let to several tenants, then in general the tenants will have responsibility for their own office, and the landlord will be responsible for the communal areas. This is the situation we have assumed below. 

Be Aware: The law states that if you employ over five members of staff, you must have a written Health and Safety Policy and Risk Assessments.

The Health and Safety Executive have a comprehensive guide free to download here

The main areas of health and safety that you need to consider are:


Risk assessments


 Landlord Tenant
Assess risks in communal areas, implement measures to minimise them and ensure tenants are aware of how to minimise any remaining risks
Assess risks in own office and take steps to minimise them

A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your building or office, could cause harm to people, the severity of the harm that could be caused and the likelihood of it happening. It considers the controls already in place and whether further action is needed, and sets a date by which the actions must be carried out. If the building or office is small then the hazards are likely to be few and simple but assessing them is a necessity.

Consider in particular:

  • visitors and members of the public who might be affected by your work
  • workers who are young, inexperienced or new to a job, trainees or those doing work experience
  • workers who have a disability
  • employees who work from home or travel to different workplaces as part of their job

If you are confident you understand what’s involved, you can do the assessment yourself. If your premises are large and complex or you are not confident in getting it right, you could ask a trade union safety representative or an independent safety consultant to help you.

The Health and Safety Executive have template risk assessments on their website. You can also undertake risk assessment training.

The results of a risk assessment may require the tenant and landlord to work together to ensure the risks are minimised. You will need to negotiate who is responsible for each ‘risk area’ and liable for costs incurred.

The main risk areas for a tenant are:

Floors and Traffic Routes

  • floors, corridors and stairs must be free of obstructions, eg. trailing cables
  • surfaces must not be slippery
  • the edges of steps that people might trip over should be highlighted with a visible edging
  • outside areas must be well lit
  • stairs should have hand-rails or ramps where necessary
  • doors should be safe eg. no sharp edges on electronically controlled doors
  • outdoor routes should be kept safe during icy conditions, eg. salted and swept

Transparent Surfaces (doors/windows)

  • windows, transparent or translucent surfaces in walls, partitions, doors and gates should, where necessary, be made of safety material or protected against breakage
  • if there is a danger people might accidentally walk into them, markings or features should be incorporated to make them apparent

Openable Windows

  • you must have windows that can be opened and cleaned safely. They should be designed to stop people falling out or bumping into them when open. You may need to fit anchor points if window cleaners have to use harnesses

Falls and Falling Objects

  • take precautions eg. fencing or guard rails where people or materials might fall from open edges

Ventilation

  • there must be a supply of fresh clean air drawn from outside and circulated throughout rooms where people are working

Temperature

  • in indoor workplaces you must provide a reasonable working temperature in rooms where people are working, usually at least 16°C, or 13°C where work is of a more physical nature (ie. in a warehouse)

Lighting

  • you must provide good light. Use natural light where possible, but try to avoid glare; a good level of local lighting at workstations should also be given

Cleanliness and Waste Materials

You must provide:

  • clean premises, furniture and fittings
  • clean floors and stairs, which are not slippery 
  • containers for waste materials which are emptied regularly

Amenities

You must provide:

  • clean, well-ventilated toilets
  • wash basins with hot and cold (or warm) running water
  • soap and towels (or a hand drier)

Drinking Water

  • you must provide a clean drinking water supply with an upward drinking jet or suitable cups (if necessary, marked to distinguish it from the non drinkable supply)

As an employer, you are also responsible for:

Room Dimensions and Space

  • People should have enough free space to move around their desk and office easily. For guidance on room dimensions refer to the free Health and Safety Executive leaflet, downloadable here.

Work Stations and Seating

Must fit the worker and the work and people should be able to leave the workstations swiftly in an emergency. Make sure that:

  • workstations must be free of obstructions such as trailing cables
  • back rests of chairs support the small of the back
  • foot rests are provided if necessary
  • work surfaces are at a sensible height
  • provide information and training for VDU users and offer regular eye tests to ensure eye strain is kept to a minimum. Further information can be found on the HSE website.

Lone Workers

People should be safe if they are working in the office on their own. You may wish to include a lone worker policy so that people follow a specific procedure to ensure their own safety.

First aid

 Landlord  Tenant
Appropriately equipped first aid box and accident book in communal areas You must provide first aid equipment and facilities appropriate for the circumstances in your workplace. The minimum would be a suitably stocked first aid box and a person appointed to take charge of first aid arrangements

It is advisable to keep a log of any accidents that occur in the workplace – however small – and the action that was taken to prevent them happening again. This could be very useful if, for example, an employee brings a case against the organisation due to personal injury occurring at work.

Fire

All buildings must have means of fire detection, warning, fighting fire and escape. Parts of this strategy should be provided by the landlord and some will be the tenant’s responsibility as an employer.

New fire safety rules

New fire safety rules affecting all non-domestic premises in the UK came into force on 1 October 2006. The new rules consolidate nearly all the existing fire safety legislation. Fire certificates will no longer be issued and have been replaced by a risk assessment-based system under which landlords and employers must provide their own risk assessments for inspection and approval by the local Fire Authority.

Main points to note under the new order:
  • fire certificates are no longer issued and those previously in force will have no legal status (however, a fairly recent fire certificate will be a good starting point for your fire risk assessment)
  • all persons with a degree of control over property have responsibility for complying with the Fire Safety legislation. In practice this will, in most cases, be the tenant or employer. For common areas the landlord has control and is therefore responsible
  • the responsible person(s) must carry out a fire risk assessment identifying and recording any possible dangers and risks
  • the Fire Safety legislation will apply to virtually all premises and covers nearly every type of building, structure and open space and definitely all offices

Fire Risk Assessments

A fire risk assessment helps you identify all the fire hazards and risks in your premises. You can then decide whether they are acceptable or whether you need to do something to reduce or control them.

There are 5 main steps to a fire risk assessment:
  • identify fire hazards
  • identify people at risk 
  • evaluate, remove or reduce and protect from risk 
  • record, plan, inform, instruct and train 
  • review your risk assessment regularly
For further details on how to carry out a fire risk assessment and to ensure you are meeting your legal obligations, contact your local Fire Service, or, for Scotland, the FireLaw website.


Electricity

 Landlord  Tenant
Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) of communal electrical appliances provided by landlord
PAT testing of own office equipment


The Electricity at Work Regulations are designed to ensure that no danger results from the use of electrical equipment. If appliances are used by employees or members of the public, they need to undergo a systematic and regular programme of maintenance, inspection and testing.

A landlord should regularly test all communal electrical equipment, for example kitchen equipment such as kettles or microwaves. Sometimes such equipment is owned by a tenant but is left in a communal area. This equipment should also be tested either by landlord or tenant.

Tenants should ensure any electrical equipment with a plug is given a yearly PAT test and you should ask to see copies of the records every year.

Full PAT testing needs to be undertaken by a qualified tester. For a directory of qualified companies across the UK visit the PAT website.

Part of the PAT testing regime includes a regular visual inspection. Many faults with work equipment can be found simply by looking at the condition of the wiring. You should check:
  • if the plug is correctly wired and fused
  • if the plug or cable is visibly damaged 
  • if there are burn marks that suggest the equipment is overheating

Gas

 Landlord  Tenant
Undertake a yearly safety and maintenance check of gas appliances, unless responsibility is otherwise allocated in the lease

Inform landlord immediately if gas appliance seems to be faulty.
Fit Carbon Monoxide monitor



By law, landlords are generally responsible for the safety and maintenance of gas fittings and appliances and must have a safety check carried out every 12 months.

Although less important than in a domestic environment, tenants may also wish to fit a carbon monoxide monitor if they have gas appliances in their premises, such as a gas boiler.

Water

 Landlord  Tenant

Undertake a risk assessment to ascertain if there are any risks from legionella.
Ensure the hot water is above 60°C in storage.
Ensure tap water is no higher than 43°C

                                


Unless a tenant occupies a whole building under a full repairing and insuring lease, it is likely that the responsibility for the water systems in the building will lie with the landlord and should be included in any risk assessment. If you are responsible for a system which may present a risk of legionella, eg. cooling towers or showers, you will need to implement measures to prevent or minimise the risk.

Legionella is a type of bacteria which is common in natural and artificial water systems. It thrives at temperatures between 20°C and 45°C, but is killed at higher temperatures. Ensuring hot water is stored at above 60°C is the main method used for its control.

You therefore need to ensure that:
  • hot water storage is above 60°C
  • hot water distribution is 43°C at the taps 
  • cold water storage and distribution is 20°C or below
  • showers are run hot once a week (to prevent build-up of warm water in pipework) and a log is kept
BE AWARE: where water comes out of taps at temperatures above 43°C there is a risk of scalding. It may be necessary to provide warning notices or install thermostatic mixing valves.

Procedures for inspecting and checking the system will also be needed.
For further information about Legionella and your duties under general health and safety law, visit the HSE website.

Asbestos

The duty for preventing potential exposure to asbestos lies with whoever is responsible for the maintenance and/or repair of the fabric of the building. Depending on the terms of the lease, this may be the landlord, tenant, or in some cases might be shared.

Whoever has responsibility must:
  • take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos
  • If necessary:
    • make and keep an up-to-date record of the location and condition of the Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) or presumed ACMs in the premises
    • assess the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from these materials
    • prepare a plan of how the risks from the materials are to be managed
    • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action
    • review and monitor the plan periodically
    • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them
Many building surveyors are qualified to undertake asbestos surveys. Alternatively, you can use a specialist asbestos surveying company.