Open-access content 11th October 2010
With this October’s European Health and Safety week focusing on safe maintenance, FMs will once more be
focusing their attentions on this crucial issue
by Nasaar Farooq
14 October 2010
There are several important pieces of legislation that employers must be aware of.
Firstly, The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) outlines the general duty of care that all employers should adhere to. This states that employers must provide a safe working environment for their employees; including ensuring that the buildings in which they work are safe. For this reason, employers must adequately maintain the internal structures and finishes.
In addition to this basic requirement, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require employers to make certain provisions to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees with regard to the cleanliness of the workplace environment, including the requirement to keep surfaces in the workplace in a clean state.
Depending on the business area there may also be other guidelines to look out for. For example, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) states that employees mustn’t be exposed to dangerous substances. If prevention is not reasonably practicable, employers must ensure they adequately control exposure. Substances classified as hazardous include everyday risks such as germs and bacteria (eg legionella in water systems).
How to comply
Cleaning is a fundamental part of routine maintenance for all places of work and its importance should not be underestimated.
Each place of work will have its own cleaning requirements which are defined in a document commonly referred to as a ‘specification of requirement’. Facilities managers must be familiar with their specification and should ensure cleaning staff are appropriately trained to handle any potentially dangerous chemicals and equipment.
Keeping abreast of cleaning requirements can be time-consuming. Developing work schedules is important in order to ensure that all requirements are met. To ensure the required tasks are being completed to a satisfactory level, facilities managers should complete regular random audits.
Areas of specific concern
A well-maintained floor will also help to reduce slips and trips in the workplace – a common cause of legal action against companies.
Clearly, different floor surfaces will require differing levels of upkeep and it is important to remember that an incorrect cleaning program can change the slip properties of a floor which can become dangerous. Wood floors untreated with sealer will absorb water and dirt and will rapidly deteriorate in appearance – therefore, along with regular waxing, sealing is also recommended. Special seals are also available for good quality concrete floors to overcome deterioration caused by chemical spillages and exposure to oil and grease. In contrast, sweeping, buffing or damp mopping should be adequate maintenance for linoleum flooring.
The maintenance of doors should be of particular concern. As moving components in everyday use, care and forethought in design coupled with regular and effective maintenance are necessary. When replacing doors, it is important to note that differing temperatures on either side of a door may cause it to warp – this is a particular problem for softwood and unframed. Repair of door locks is usually a specialist function although non-specialist maintenance such as applying powdered graphite is often required.
It is the facilities managers responsibility to ensure employees understand their duties. The HSWA states that employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by their work.
Overall, it is crucially important for facilities managers to recognise their legal obligations to understand the particular demands of individual structures and finishes and to ensure all employees are familiar with their duties.
● Building records provide a history of work and faults and are invaluable in the case of alterations or if emergencies occur
● A physical inspection of the premises will provide the data from which maintenance needs are generated and organised
● After an inspection of any type has been carried out, the results should be appraised properly so that appropriate action can be taken
● All companies should have a maintenance policy
● Source a supplier with multi-skilled engineers – it could reduce costs
● The condition report should include levels of risk and financial issues associated with the current condition of the property
● The maintenance schedule should document future maintenance work
Nasaar Farooq Health and safety technical manager at Croner
(Health and Safety Executive, a source of advice and legal information)