The Importance of Managing Safety in Sectional Title Schemes
1. Legislative framework and preamble
Managing safety in sectional title schemes is important as it forms part of complying with several applicable pieces of legislation / Acts. Trustees & managing agents will primarily concentrate o:
- the STSMA (Sectional Title Scheme Management Act),
- Property Practitioners Act,
- CSOS Act (Community Scheme Ombud Service),
- PMR (Prescribed Management Rules)’ and
- even the Scheme’s Conduct Rules.
However, one should be mindful that we have additional compliance requirements, which include the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act, Municipal bylaws, and others, where applicable.
The OHS Act
The OHS Act & regulations specifically deals with construction, but sections of the Act and Regulations covers:
- maintenance activities,
- employees, and
- contractors performing work for the client.
One should be careful not to indiscriminately apply Construction Regulations to maintenance of existing infrastructure. However it is important that managing agents and trustees familiarise themselves with the implications of this Act, and the applicable Regulations.
Managing safety in sectional title schemes
The Trustees and Managing Agents are already over-burdened with compliance. And it is not my wish to load even more compliance onto your shoulders. However safety is one of those vital management components, that deserves a higher ranking. More than “parking and pets”, some would argue. I encourage our readers to open their minds and to start the discussion on safety and compliance.
To this end I have prepared a discussion piece for your next meeting …..
(For ease of reference, included as annexures, is a list of Regulations (Annexure A), and Section 5 of the Construction Regulations (Annexure B), which are likely to be applicable to Bodies Corporate.)
The Trustees of the body corporate are responsible for:
- occupants and visitors,
- persons who do work for the Body Corporate,
- contractors who do work for the Trustees.
The trustees should take guidance on ensuring that both public and civil liabilities are covered in these instances.
2.1 Responsibility towards occupants and visitors
Managing safety in sectional title schemes includes occupants and visitors. It is therefore important for the Board of Trustees to realize that they are responsible for the safety of occupants and visitors. Specifically, the items that the occupants and visitors have no control over. These may include inter alia, but are not limited to:
- safety of electricity supply,
- control over access and premises,
- safety of lifts if applicable,
- safety of swimming pools,
- work done by persons appointed by the body corporate might affect occupants, visitors or staff,
- evacuation procedures in case of emergencies if applicable,
It often astounds me when I visit schemes to find that automated closing mechanisms and secure access to swimming pools are not operational and secure. Safety of our communities and visitors must be guarded, especially our children and vulnerable community members. Not attending to the most basic of safety aspects is inexcusable.
Safety should be a “non-negotiable” component of our management policy.
2.2 Responsibility towards persons who work for us
A Board of Trustees are deemed an employer and must comply with the same requirements applicable to any other or similar employer.
Without going into too much detail, the following should inter alia be considered or included:
- prepare a simplified risk assessment to establish the hazards associated with the work in question; and
- decide on the type of personal protective equipment to be used; and
- ensure the equipment or tools are used for the purpose they should be used for; and
- ensure that workers are skilled and trained to perform their duties in a safe manner; and
- ensure that the Body Corporate is in good standing with the Compensation Commissioner in respect of persons who work for the Body Corporate; and
- ensure there is a method of inspecting tools and equipment workers use, as well as equipment like fire hydrants and fire hoses;
- make sure workers undergo a yearly medical examination in respect of how their work might have affected their health; and
Trustees should guard against being too casual and nonchalant about providing adequate safety measures for staff employed by the Body Corporate. Gardeners, for example work, with machinery and equipment that obliges compliance with the OHS Act.
2.3 Responsibility towards contractors who do work for the Body Corporate
It is important to recognize that the contractor is an employer in his own right, and therefore is obliged to comply with the OHS Act. However, the Body Corporate also has certain responsibilities towards the contractors.
It is recommended that the Body Corporate make use of the section 37(2) agreement. This provides the opportunity to make written arrangements and agreements. Which mandates the employed contractor to comply with the provisions of the Act. The industry would argue that in addition to this agreement, the client cannot turn a blind eye and hide behind a contract. They should still manage the contractor within a reasonable manner. This could include providing the contractor with a baseline safety plan.
As good practice, I suggest that the Body Corporate prepares general guidelines for contractors and service providers entering the premises. This may inter alia include;
- reference to emergency contact details; and
- contact details of nearest hospital; and
- schematic and lay-out of scheme, including evacuation plans; and
- maximum load of vehicles; and
- access rules; and
- security; and
- house rules; and
- any other information that will enable the contractor to enter and do work at the scheme in a safe manner;
This document could form part of the “Job-Card” issued to service providers working at the scheme.
3. Diversity of compliance and regulations
It is clear from the list of regulations (included as Annexure A) that there are several applicable regulations that may come into play in managing Community Schemes. Hazardous chemicals & asbestos comes to mind. In some older buildings the asbestos regulations almost certainly apply and will provide its own set of challenges when dealing with maintenance projects. “Lead in Paint” is another emotive topic where consumers are often educated and insistent on eradicating completely (Children’s play areas as example).
4. Practical point of view
As with most things Sectional Title, I would encourage a very practical and hands-on approach. The well-being and safety of our community members should be our proud priority. In the same breath, our staff and service providers’ safety must also be ensured.
Where trustees do not have the expertise and skills, we strongly suggest that they employ the services of an OHS agent. If your body corporate employs staff, and the OHS Act is applicable, we suggest that a basic plan be drawn up, and that regular inspections be carried out, as required. For sizable maintenance projects, the trustees should consider appointing a dedicated OHS agent.
I wish to encourage our readers to put safety on their agendas, and to make it part and parcel of their management strategy. The OHS Act is often overlooked when it comes to the safety of our residents, visitors and in particular our staff and contractors. The Master Builders Association North has a dedicated OHS department which provides services to the general industry. If in doubt, you’re welcome to contact them directly for any specific assistance.
Since the early 1900’s there has been a saying describing our predicament so aptly; “Do not think because an accident hasn’t happened to you that it can’t happen.”
Wishing you safe and hassle-free communities & maintenance projects.