NHMF best practice

These two new best practice sections will help social landlords to maintain quality homes in an increasingly challenging economic environment. The Compliance Section has a set of topical guides summarising social landlords’ responsibilities for meeting essential statutory health and safety requirements and explain how to do this economically and efficiently. The Fuel Saving Section explains how to include a fuel saving strategy as a key aspect of an organisation’s business plan. The Guide then sets out how to develop a practical improvement strategy as an integral part of the asset management programme and how to successfully deliver the improvements and manage the risks. There are also best practice training courses which relate to this guide.

General Health & Safety requirements

Introduction

The basis of UK health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA). The Act sets out the general duties which employers, such as landlords, have towards employees and members of the public. These duties are qualified in the Act by the principle of "so far as is reasonably practicable" so that an employer does not have to take measures to avoid or reduce the risk if those measures are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Scope

This guide covers social landlords’ general responsibilities for health and safety. 

Under HSWA UK landlords are responsible for general health and safety in relation to the homes they provide and the businesses they operate. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 make more explicit what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under HSWA. Like HSWA, they apply to every work activity.  The main requirement on employers is to carry out a risk assessment. Employers with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of the risk assessment. Risk assessment should be straightforward in a simple workplace such as a typical office.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a short guide on health and safety regulation that includes a list of important pieces of health and safety legislation. In addition building owners should have the necessary insurance, including public liability, in place. 

Landlords need to comply with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM Regulations) when commissioning or undertaking repair or construction work. HSE has published Managing health and safety in construction that provides guidance on complying with the CDM Regulations, including landlords’, principal designers’ and principal contractors’ duties.

The Party Wall Act extends only to England and Wales. There is no equivalent legislation in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Construction work that comes under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 is:

  • Constructing a new building on or at the boundary of two properties
  • Work to an existing party wall or party structure, including excavation below foundation level

The building owner, such as a social landlord, proposing to start work covered by the Act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions in the way set down in the Act. Adjoining owners can agree or disagree with what is proposed, or if they do not comment on a party wall notice within 14 days of it being served a dispute is deemed to have arisen. The Act provides a mechanism for resolving disputes. The Government has published guidance on the Party Wall Act as well as examples of the required letters and notices.

The main types of party walls are:

  • A wall that stands on the lands of two (or more) owners and forms part of a building - this wall can be part of one building only or separate buildings belonging to different owners
  • A wall that stands on the lands of two owners but does not form part of a building, such as a garden wall but not including timber fences
  • A wall that is on one owner’s land but is used by two (or more) owners to separate their buildings

The Act also uses the expression ‘party structure’. This could be a wall or floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings in different ownership, such as in flats. 

The HSE, with local authorities (and other enforcing authorities) is responsible for enforcing HSWA and a number of other Acts and Statutory Instruments relevant to the working environment in England, Wales and Scotland. HSE has published guidance on the specific details for enforcing health and safety legislation and also an enforcement policy statement. Separate enforcement arrangements operate in Northern Ireland, which has its own Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI). 

HHSRS under the Housing Act is enforced by local authorities, for category 1 hazards an improvement notice will be served or, in more extreme cases, a prohibition order may be served. The Act gives local authorities powers of access for the purposes of inspecting to see if a category 1 or 2 hazard exists. 

HSE’s website provides a wide range of guidance on compliance with HSWA, as does the hseni. There is also a simple guide on how to meet legal requirements for health and safety more generally. Separate guidance is available for Northern Ireland.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) publishes advice on health and safety at work designed for smaller businesses that gives an overview of health and safety requirements and a list of some key legislation. While intended for smaller businesses, the guide could be useful for landlords considering how to comply with their general health and safety responsibilities.

 

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