RICS Members – New Safety Duty
Since the start of the year, the UK has been hit by severe storms: Storm Dennis, Storm Ciara and Storm Jorge to name a few. These brought gale-force winds and tragically, took lives in their path. Our recent ‘Batten Down The Hatches’ free seminars in London and Cambridge could not have been more timely. Head of Construction, Lorna Carter and Head of Regulatory, Kathryn Gilbertson took delegates by storm with their collaborative presentation aimed at property management and health and safety professionals.
Health and safety expert, Kathryn Gilbertson, spoke about safety management implications of extreme weather events and illustrated these by discussing two high-profile prosecutions brought following Storm Doris. Construction specialist, Lorna Carter, then provided guidance on how organisations can get their documentation in order before these incidents occur to avoid and/or mitigate the risk of similar situations.
In July 2019, Cushman Wakefield Debenham Tie Leung Ltd pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act after a woman was killed by falling debris which blew off a shopping centre roof in Wolverhampton during Storm Doris. The Judge referred to serious failings on the part of the global commercial real estate services firm, in particular, failure to identify risk and to maintain the property.
This death was investigated by the Coroner, Zafar Siddique, who issued a “prevention of future deaths” request to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
In January 2020, RICS published professional standards and guidance “Technical due diligence of commercial property” (first edition). In particular, it places a new duty on RICS members: ‘on identifying a risk to health and safety the RICS member or RICS regulated firm should, as soon as practicable, report this to their client, building owner, manager and to a suitable person on site (or someone connected with the site) who may reasonably be expected to act on the information.’ (paragraph 5.3).
The guidance also states that RICS members or RICS regulated firms should conduct the inspection in accordance with the current edition of “Surveying safely: health and safety principles for the property professional”, RICS guidance note.
Failure to comply with this guidance may result in disciplinary action being taken against the individual RICS member and/or RICS regulated firm. This failure could also be referred to in any prosecution or sentence under the “Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline”. These fines are often substantial, as was the case for Cushman Wakefield, with £1.3m being imposed after credit for its early guilty plea.
If you would like to know more about the new safety duty in the RICS guidance, your health and safety at work obligations, defending prosecutions or how to avoid and/or mitigate the risk of similar situations, then please do get in touch.
This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. For advice, get in touch with your usual Greenwoods GRM contact or scroll down to complete our enquiry form.