The common areas are also subject to a considerable amount of legislation and whilst it would be impossible to list them all here. I have extracted some of the most important ones

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (known as RIDDOR), is the law that requires employers, and other people in control of work premises, to report and keep records of work-related accidents which cause death, work-related accidents which cause certain serious injuries (reportable injuries), diagnosed cases of certain industrial diseases and certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (incidents with the potential to cause harm).

Buildings Regulations Act 2010

The Buildings Regulations Act 2010 governs fire safety design in new blocks of flats. It does not introduce new standards or regulations, but builds on existing good practice and guidance currently in place.

Health and Safety Offences Act 2008

The Health & Safety Offences Act 2008 amends the maximum penalties that can be made against defendants under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 (HASAWA) and subservient health and safety regulations. The Act increases fines for most existing health and safety offences from £5,000 to £20,000 in the Magistrate Court (the amount remains unlimited in the Crown Court). The Act also creates the threat of imprisonment for employees who may have contributed to a health and safety offence by their granting their consent, by connivance with others or neglect.

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) 2005 requires a ‘responsible person’ to carry out, implement and maintain a fire safety risk assessment for the common/shared areas of blocks of flats. This is to ensure the safety of all residents, visitors or employees to the property. Fire Officers have the authority to enter and carry out inspections both to the exterior and internally for which the Fire Authorities have a statutory duty to ensure compliance.

The competent person should demonstrate knowledge of current best practice in the sector and be prepared to supplement gaps in training. Their appointment does not absolve the employer of his or her responsibilities under the legislation.

The assessment should be specific to the premises and if they are not carried out, or the recommendations from such assessments are not implemented, if a fire-related incident occurs, the consequences will determined by the courts. A fire safety risk assessment should include:

  1. Fire Prevention;
  2. Detection and Warning;
  3. Emergency Escape and Fire Fighting.
  4. Ignition sources and flammable materials;
  5. Fire-fighting equipment, i.e. extinguishers;
  6. Fire doors;
  7. Smoke detection;
  8. Escape routes and evacuation procedures.

The findings are to be recorded in the Safety Statement.

In addition to ensuring the safety of people, areas covered by a fire risk assessment will be required to check the following:

  1. Ignition sources and flammable materials;
  2. Fire-fighting equipment, i.e. extinguishers;
  3. Fire doors;
  4. Smoke detection;
  5. Escape routes and evacuation procedures.

Working At Heights Regulations 2005

The Working at Heights Regulations 2005 have revoked the working at height parts of the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996. The regulations are now applicable to all places of work and include all work activities where there is a need to control the risk of falling from any distance and therefore liable to cause personal injury.

The principle is that any work at height must be avoided if its practical to do the work in another way. If it can’t be avoided than a risk assessment must be carried out and the work planned accordingly.

With residential property such work would include:

  1. Working on a scaffold or from a mobile elevated work platform (MEWP);
  2. Work performed in trees;
  3. The use of cradles or ropes to gain access to parts of a building;
  4. Using a ladder/step ladder or kick stool for window cleaning, or other maintenance tasks such as changing a light bulb (if the freeholder supplies these then they need to be checked regularly and a notice placed on it detailing safety precautions for their use);
  5. Checking smoke detectors;
  6. Gutter cleaning.

A brief guide can be found here.

Under s19 of the Act, (provision of information to employees) a ‘responsible person’ with sufficient training, experience and knowledge is required to carry out, implement and maintain a fire safety risk assessment for the common/shared areas of blocks of flats to ensure the safety of all residents, visitors or employees to the property. This is because the Health and Safety Executive view these areas as places of work in exactly the same way as commercial properties.

The assessment should be specific to the premises and if they are not carried out, or the recommendations from such assessments are not implemented, if a fire-related incident occurs, the consequences will determined by the courts. A fire safety risk assessment should include:

Fire Prevention;
Detection and Warning;
Emergency Escape and Fire Fighting.
Ignition sources and flammable materials;
Fire-fighting equipment, i.e. extinguishers;
Fire doors;
Smoke detection;
Escape routes and evacuation procedures.

The findings are to be recorded in the Safety Statement.and Fire Officers have the authority to enter and carry out inspections to both to the exterior and internally as the Fire Authorities have a statutory duty to ensure compliance.

The competent person should demonstrate knowledge of current best practice in the sector and be prepared to supplement gaps in training. The appointment of a competent person does not absolve the employer of his or her responsibilities under the legislation.

The Act also clarifies under s12 (elimination or reduction of risks from dangerous substances) that consideration must also be given to the safety of persons other than employees within the workplace. Everything reasonably practical must be done to ensure that all individuals at the place of work are not exposed to risks to their safety and health. Further obligations come under s15 (procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger areas).

Management of Health and Safety At Work Regulations 1999

The Management of Health & Safety At Work Regulations 1999 covers the legal requirement of  health and safety risk assessments. They require all employers to assess and manage health and safety risks with risk management involving the identifying and controlling, (by sensible health and safety measures), any potentially significant risk of accident or ill health under employer supervision such as contractors, leaseholders, members of the public and visitors.

Whilst these Regulations don’t provide for the frequency of health and safety reports, it is highly recommended that they at least be carried out annually in order to identify any hazards that could result in significant injury.

Note: There is a difference between the obligations of just repair and repair/keep in working order with the latter being a higher obligation requiring those areas to be capable of functioning for the purpose of which they are intended. However, as there is no legal definition of common areas it will be the lease that is the definitive document.

Two of the most important elements are Regulation 3 as it is requires general assessment of all risks to health arising from work. It’s aim is to establish an effective system of ‘preventive and protective measures’ to safeguard employees.

The other is Regulation 5 which requires employers to make arrangements to cover the ‘effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review’ of health and safety.

A large part of the service charge budget may be required to adhere to the legislation but failure to comply could come at a far greater cost should an accident or injury occur.

Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 cover various means of communicating health and safety information, such as the use of illuminated signs, hand and acoustic signals (e.g. fire alarms), spoken communication and the marking of pipework containing dangerous substances.
Employers are required to provide specific safety signs whenever there is a risk that has not been avoided or controlled by other means; for example, by engineering controls and safe systems of work. Fire safety signs (i.e. signs for fire exits and fire-fighting equipment) are also covered by the Regulations.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

All parties must ensure that 5 year fixed wiring tests for the common areas and PAT testing of portable electrical supplied by the freeholder or managing agent is carried out according to the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. It places wide-ranging duties on employers who must protect the ‘health, safety and welfare’ at work of all their employees, as well as others on their premises. This includes temps, casual workers, the self-employed, clients, visitors and the general public.

It is the Health and Safety Executive, along with local authorities (and other enforcing authorities) who are responsible for enforcing the Act as well as a number of other Acts and Statutory Instruments relevant to the working environment.

Under the Act there are also a number of regulations governing the safety of plant and equipment.
The first of those is the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) that states that all employers have an obligation to provide employees with a safe-work environment.
The implication of that requirement is that all work equipment requires a risk assessment and a decision to be taken as to whether regular examination is prudent and necessary.

A sub-section of this regulation is the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) that requires all equipment that lifts or lowers a load (including people) needs to be examined.
Although more specific than the PUWER definition, the LOLER requirement is still a plant non-specific definition, ensuring that the inventory of plant requiring examination continuously requires revision and revisiting.

The third set of guidelines is the Pressure System Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR) which govern the safe operation of pressure systems.
They call for regular examination in accordance with the written scheme and in order to ensure compliance there are three rules of thumb that should be adhered to:

  1. Any vessel that holds steam under pressure;
  2. Any vessel whose pressure multiplied by its volume is greater than 250 Bar Litres;
  3. Any Air Conditioning Unit with more than 25Kw of total installed power.

Defective Premises Act 1972

A duty of care is placed on both freeholders and management under s4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 in relation to any person who might be affected by a defect, ‘to take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances to see that they are reasonably safe from personal injury or from damage to their property caused by a relevant defect’.

This is civil redress and a defect is relevant if the landlord knew about it or should have known about it – the fact that a defect has not been reported or there has been a failure to inspect (e.g. rotten floorboards or joists) does not remove liability. It is for this reason that it is important that landlords (or their agents) carry out regular checks on the property.