Maintaining Property Statutory Examinations / Inspections During The Covid-19 Outbreak

Background

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a range of challenges for Property Managers with many restrictions on normal operations. This may include difficulty of getting support from contractors in carrying out statutory inspections, examinations and test of plant and equipment or the need to actually close premises.

Although the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is not carrying out any inspections of industries outside of the major hazard sectors, they have made clear that the responsibility for ensuring that statutory inspection, examination and testing of plant and equipment remains with the dutyholder. It is important to mention at the outset that failure to carry out a statutory inspection, examination and test would be a breach of legislation, which could lead to a range of potential enforcement actions including prosecution, although some requirements will not apply when premises are closed. However, failure to maintain some systems, particularly fire safety systems may invalidate the insurance for the premises even if the premises are not in use.

There is a wide range of legislation that requires statutory inspections, examinations and tests. Much of this legislation is goal setting, detailing what is to be achieved without being prescriptive on how it is achieved. Compliance with these goals is often achieved by following HSE and industry guidance, British Standards and manufacturer information. While these may set recommended time frames for maintenance, inspection and testing of plant and equipment, they are not strict statutory requirements, and failure to follow them would not necessarily be a breach of legislation. However, there are some statutory requirements for thorough examination and inspection or testing, for plant such as lifts, lifting equipment and pressure systems, which include a set time frame e.g. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000.

Working on Site

Engineers / contractors working at the premises should follow current guidance on distancing and good hygiene as recommended by Public Health England, as well as any specific site rules. This is to protect the engineers carrying out the work as well as anyone who may be affected by their work or presence. The HSE advises that where it identifies employers not complying with the relevant Public Health England guidance e.g. not taking appropriate action to socially distance, it will consider actions to improve control such as issuing improvement notices.

What Plant and Equipment to Examine and Test

Dutyholders should consider whether it is essential to continue to use plant and equipment in the current circumstances. It is not appropriate for persons to be put at risk to carry out statutory examinations, inspections and tests for plant and equipment, which is not essential for the safe operation of premises. If taking plant out of use is putting vulnerable persons at risk, a careful decision would need to be made and it may be prudent to seek further advice. It is important that this should only be considered when failure to keep plant and equipment operating poses a genuine risk to vulnerable persons’ safety from rather than cause an inconvenience.

It is essential that irrespective of statutory inspection, examination or test that plant and equipment is maintained in good working order and is safe for continued use. If there are any identified faults with plant or equipment, which could lead to a risk from its operation, it should be taken out of use and securely isolated to prevent further use until the necessary repairs have been completed.

 Key points To Consider

  • Assess which plant and equipment require statutory inspections and examinations and when these are due.
  • Make an assessment to determine if any plant or equipment is essential for safety or operation of the premises – if plant or equipment is not required, it could be taken out of use.
  • Liaise with the relevant contractors who carry out statutory inspections and examinations to determine what level of service they can provide.
  • If a decision is made to continue to use plant or equipment despite it not having had the relevant statutory examination and inspection in order to safeguard life, it is essential that this reasoning is recorded.
  • Inform your insurance company if any planned inspection and testing is not being completed or if premises or part of the premises are closed.
  • If closing premises for a period of time, and where it is decided to shut off the power to services such as electrical, gas, water and ventilation systems, plant shutdowns should be undertaken in accordance with manufacturer instructions to ensure that it is done safely. On subsequent restart manufacturer guidance should be followed to ensure that the plant is re-energised safely and to avoid potential damage.
  • Follow Public Health England recommendations on hygiene and social distancing (maintain two metres between people).

If you require further information or advice regarding Maintaining Property Statutory Examinations / Inspections During The Covid-19 Outbreak, please contact Quantum Compliance.