Property and the Health & Safety Act

The Health & Safety Act was reformed recently and came into force on April 2016.

Generally when we think of Health and Safety, we think about it applying to the workplace. But it actually has wide reaching effects which impacts landlords and property managers. Just how could it affect you?

It introduces a new term, known as PCBU. PCBU stands for Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking. This could include businesses, building owners, body corporates, contractors and even government organisations. PCBUs have a duty to as reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of your own workers and others. Each PCBU has a least one officer. These are people who are directors of a company or in a similar position and they too, have a duty to as reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of your own workers and others.

Let’s see how it applies to property owners and investors.

For instance, if you happen to own commercial buildings (retail shops or offices), then the Health and Safety at Work Act you would be considered as a PCBU.  As the building owner, you will have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of people who use the building. This basically means ensuring the lifts, fire systems and building structure is safe. This particularly affects you if your building is in an earthquake prone town. An you can’t opt out of this duty. Some clever people try to set up a company and hold the property under the company name. The Act provides for this and makes officers (which includes directors and people who have significant influence over the management of the company) equally liable for ensuring the health and safety of people who use the building.

For those who only invest in residential properties, you have a general duty take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of people who use your property. In this context, it means basic prevention activities like:

  • having smoke alarms installed
  • non slip nosing on steps
  • having a handrail installed next to steps
  • if you have loose floorboards on stairs, make sure you get them fixed

Note that under the Health and Safety at Work Act, landlords or property management companies (the PCBU) are not generally not responsible for the actions of tenants while the tenants are occupying the property. Tenants only have a responsibility under HSWA when work is being carried out on the property. Tenants are to take reasonable care for their own and others’ health and safety, and shall follow any reasonable instructions given by the PCBU doing the work (eg plumber or electrician).

What about body corporates?

Body Corporates are a PCBU and will have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of everybody involved with or affected by work on the common areas of the property that the Body Corporate organises or is responsible for. If you happen to be a body corporate committee member, then you will come under the meaning of “officer” and thus have obligations under the Health and Safety Act. While the Body Corporate is the PCBU and has the primary duty of care to ensure workplace health and safety, the committee members have a duty to make sure the Body Corporate is doing what it needs to do to ensure the health and safety of workers and others when work is being carried out on the common areas of the property. So make sure if you sign up to be a Body Corporate committee member of chairperson you are aware of this. 

What about developers?

Definitely you will fall under the Health and Safety Act. If you plan to do anything on your investment properties that requires a building consent, make sure you take precautions to keep contractors safe.

For more information, you should visit the Work Safe website.

 

 

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