Keeping Common Property Free of Hazards

Even as life slowly starts to return to normal, one thing that hasn’t changed from the height of the pandemic is the fact that more people are working from home in strata buildings.

With this increased presence and demand/usage of common property, the likelihood of an injury occurring in these spaces has also increased.

It is vital that bodies corporate ensure that common property has been assessed and made free from hazards to meet their safety and legislative responsibilities and obligations.

What is common property?

It is the responsibility of the body corporate to maintain common property.

Common property is defined as all the areas of the strata-titled property that are not included in any individual owner’s lot. The common property is jointly owned by all the owners, and the body corporate is responsible for the management and upkeep of the common property.

For example, in a high-rise complex of units, each owner owns their own lot (or unit) but they access that lot through grounds, walkways, doors, stairways and foyers that are commonly used by everyone. Common property is shared by everyone and does not form part of any lot.

What common property generally includes:

  • Gardens, lawns and grounds
  • Stairways
  • Lifts or ramps
  • Foyers
  • Basement or other car parking areas
  • Access roadways
  • Roofs
  • Joint walls, including doors, windows or other structures within the wall
  • Infrastructure such as water, power and sewerage
  • Floors
  • Pipes and electrical wiring located in common property or servicing more than one lot
  • Balcony walls and doors
  • Facilities on common property such as BBQs and pools
  • The foundations and outside of the building
  • Railings or balustrades which lie on or near the boundary between a lot and common property

 

Because each strata scheme is individual and unique, the common property of each scheme will also be individual. It is very important for the body corporate to know what type of plan the scheme is recorded as. A scheme recorded as a ‘building format plan’ will have a significantly different area of responsibility than one recorded as a ‘standard format plan’.

Safety – Duties and Responsibilities of the Body Corporate

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 a Body Corporate or owner, must consider their duties under the law, especially regarding the health and safety of any person entering and egressing the common property.

This duty applies to all owners and managers and means that they must take reasonable action to ensure that anyone, including owners, service providers, tenants, visitors and even trespassers who come onto the common property, are not injured.

This can be somewhat of an Achilles heel for strata properties (especially residential) and can leave a body corporate vulnerable to being legally pursued in relation to breach of these duties.

The body corporate must ensure that the internal hallways, external walkways and stairs remain free of trip hazards to allow clear access in line with QLD Building Fire Regulation 2008. It can sometimes be forgotten that these paths provide a quick escape in the event of an emergency.

When there is smoke in the air it will be difficult for residents to see obstructions such as pot plants, mats or even decorative statues, when exiting the building.

Meeting Your Safety Obligations

When it comes to safety, all members of the body corporate must play their part to ensure the common property is kept safe and as free of risk as possible.

The first steps to mitigating the risks of injury and liability risk on the common property is keeping the property in good repair, well-serviced and regularly inspected.

Hazards must be assessed, and control measures implemented, to minimise or eliminate risks to the health and safety of personnel. Control measures must be monitored for effectiveness on a regular basis.

Meeting these requirements requires a proactive stance by the Body Corporate to engage and monitor safety issues on the property.

Engaging a professional compliance specialist such as Strata Umbrella to take an active part in this process is a significant step towards mitigating the Bodies Corporate liability and prevent injury.

To make sure you are meeting your safety obligations, a qualified and experienced Safety Specialist will conduct a thorough on-the-ground inspection of common property to identify compliance issues and risks of liability exposure to the Body Corporate.  Furthermore, they will ensure that all required documentation is accounted for and all legal obligations have been met.

Safety Reports

With all the different rules and regulations surrounding health and safety, it can sometimes feel protracted and confusing with so many legislative obligations imposed on bodies corporate. In can sometimes be difficult to understand what the requirements for compliance actually are.

So, how can a Safety Report help clarify these expectations? A Safety Report is key to identifying and minimizing the risk of injury within a strata community.

It can identify the presence of potential hazards and risks and recommend precautionary measures to reduce and control them.

An assessment can also clarify the likelihood of each identified risk occurring. Which helps the body corporate prioritize attention to minimize and wherever possible, eliminate the risk.

A proactive approach minimises liability and removes/reduces the risk. Acting on the findings of the Report will help you and your body corporate achieve optimum results.

How often should your body corporate undertake a safety assessment?

Experts recommend that a safety assessment should be conducted on an annual basis and/or if any circumstances change in your common areas giving rise to notable risks.

This ensures that any new hazards are identified, and existing control measures reviewed to guarantee they are kept up to date and functioning as expected.

When it comes to health and safety a proactive approach is always best. Getting a safety assessment completed by a competent, professional assessor can go a long way to ensuring that your strata community remains safe, minimizes liabilities including insurance premiums, and promote harmonious living.

How Can We Help You?

Call us on 07 3435 5300 and one of our friendly consultants will help