Employing contractors is an inevitable and essential part of that property management and a Managing Agent’s responsibility at law also extends to the people who work on a building for the purposes of maintenance and repair.
The relationship is more complex in multi-apartment situations because of the number of residents and the Managing Agents’ legal obligations. Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that a Managing Agent has a duty to ensure that the contractor is ‘not exposed to risks to their health or safety’. Moreover, Section 3 also states that there is an ongoing legal duty to ensure any works undertaken by the selected contractor do not expose residents, visitors, other contractors or the public ‘to risks to their health or safety.’
The designation, ‘contractor’ necessarily includes anyone who works on the building:-
- Fire alarm engineers
- Window cleaners
- Gardeners and landscapers
- Carpet and flooring fitters
- Lift maintenance engineers
- Satellite and telecoms specialists
- Structural consultants
To successfully deliver and manage our joint responsibility for contractor management, B-hive has an in-house department which manages this – Contractor Accreditation Scheme or CAS – which is part of our Essential Services solution. There are diverse and varied pieces of legislation, that contractors must comply with, plus considerations of best practice and Health and Safety law which apply. The CAS department is responsible for initially assessing contractors to ensure they are suitably qualified and accredited to work on our buildings. But there is more to it than that.
Individual site-specific risk assessments
Due to the huge variety of work and the specific features of each job and site, every project requires a unique risk assessment. The risk assessment must demonstrate a safe working environment for all parties and compliance with the relevant legislation and guidelines for that particular project or job.
What is the verification system for employing contractors?
B-hive is a member of ARMA, The Association of Residential Managing Agents in England and Wales and our system of contractor selection, verification and management is based on their protocols for vetting and ongoing supervision. This framework forms the basis of our Contractor Accreditation Scheme. When choosing contractors to work with, HML is concerned with the following key factors:-
- A demonstrable level of competency in the trade or profession
- Financial status and solvency
- Identity checking, which includes the Certificate of Incorporation for registered companies or self-employment status for sole traders
- Specific experience, appropriate to the job at hand
- References, which are relevant to working on residential flats and apartments
- Evidence of compliance with current Health and Safety law and Guidance Notes
- Correct accreditations and licensing
- Permits for high hazards and unusual jobs
- The requisite insurances including appropriate Public Liability Insurance, Employers’ Liability Insurance to at least £5 million from an authorised insurer and Professional Indemnity Insurance
- Membership of trade organisations and professional bodies
The CAS department undertakes various checks and rigorous assessments of new contractors, which mean there are some companies we don’t work with as they do not meet our high standards. Contractors are chosen for their efficiency, quality and value for money and are then scrutinised again when a choice is made for a particular job or project to ensure we select the most appropriate company for the work.
Each contractor must provide a copy of their Health & Safety policy and an individual risk assessment should be completed for each job with the chosen contractor. This pays close attention to areas such as Health and Safety law, for example, ensuring that there are appropriate insurances in place for the type and level of work which may also include Product Liability Insurance and All Risks Insurance. Any relevant information about the site is passed over to the contractor with clear instructions provided and any training completed as necessary before work commences.
Part of the management programme and individual risk assessment for each job includes a method statement, which usually contains the following information:-
- Who will be responsible for the work and what will they do?
- Who supervises the work?
- What equipment is being used?
- Is there a requirement for any protective equipment?
- What are the working procedures?
- What are the protocols for stopping the work in the event that there is an unforeseen problem or serious health and safety concern?
- What are the significant hazards associated with the work, and how can they be controlled?
As every situation is different, contractor management is a very proactive operation that remains live throughout the entire duration of the project. This ensures the work is carried out in accordance with the exact specifications of the job and in line with both Health and Safety law and other relevant legislation. It is also important to make sure that damage and undue disturbance are avoided or kept to an absolute minimum until the work is completed. Feedback and complaints from residents about problems associated with the work are managed proactively as part of this process of joint responsibility which continues throughout the time the contractors are on site. The amount of control and supervision will reflect the complexity of the task and the level of risk involved.
Every project will present unique challenges and these can include:-
- Unexpected developments such as the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 and the requirement for social distancing and safe hygiene
- Legislation and regulations, particularly around the area of fire safety, continue to evolve and develop for multi-occupancy buildings
- On site developments and unexpected changes can occur during the course of any maintenance job or project and our live management system responds accordingly. An example of this might be the discovery of hidden Asbestos during routine repair or maintenance work requiring a proactive reassessment of the situation
- Emergency and out of hours working demand comprehensive and professional management and the CAS department ensure that there is a readily available panel of contractors to call on at short notice. Delay is minimised as they have already been assessed and verified by our team
B-hive use contractors who comply with appropriate vetting systems. The system and the selection of individual contractors are evidenced with comprehensive record keeping, which relates not only to the contractor’s membership of the Contractor Accreditation Scheme (CAS) but also to each distinct job or project. An essential part of this process of property management is communication with our residents who are kept informed both prior and during the work until it is satisfactorily completed.