How to Undertake a Risk Assessment for New Premises

We look at the key areas to inspect to ensure your new business location is safe for you and your employees

How to Undertake a Risk Assessment for New Premises

Undertaking a detailed risk assessment is an absolutely vital consideration when taking on new premises. Failure to do so could result in you buying or leasing a property which does not adhere to legal requirements, with the potential to create safety issues and legal repercussions. This guide will give you an insight into how you can conduct a risk assessment of your prospective property.

Equipment, devices and systems

The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 state that equipment, devices and systems are subject to a suitable maintenance programme. It is important that you obtain in-date inspection certificates or maintenance reports for electrical, gas, lifts and fire safety systems.

Inspect the electrics

Electrical inspection is particularly important as a mismanaged system has the potential to be fatal. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 requires that all electrical systems are safe to use at all times, monitored by regular inspection, testing and record keeping.

Responsibility here lies with the employer to ensure the safety of electrical systems, and although there is no requirement for safety certification, a report should be provided by a suitable inspector which contains a list of defects, or examples of non-compliance with regulations, which could give rise to danger; check this report and ensure that the current system is safe.

Lifts in your new company location

Lifts or lifting equipment in offices and factories are subject to six monthly or yearly thorough examinations and inspections, covered by LOLER and PUWER. Details of examinations should be reported by a suitable inspector, including any defects found which could endanger safety.

Get a gas certificate

All landlords are legally required to have all gas appliances checked every 12 months and to hold a CP12 gas safety certificate. If your prospective premises do not have a certificate, ensure that you have it inspected by a reputable firm.
The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that no method of cooling or heating, which results in the escape of fumes or gases likely to cause injury, should be used. Temperature in work environments should also be at least 16 degrees centigrade at all times.

Fire safety in your new location

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers general fire safety and states that employers and building owners must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and keep it up-to-date. Make an assessment of the property’s fire risks and decide if this will be heightened or reduced by your line of business. For example, work that requires the storage, use or production of chemicals or vapours that can burn or explode is high risk.

Escape routes should be designed to ensure that anyone confronted with fire in the building should be able to escape to safety. You need to consider how many people use the premises, relative escape time, the age and condition of the premises; the complexity of escape routes and assisted escape plans for those with disabilities.

Fire alarms also need to be in full working condition; The Fire Precautions Act 1971 requires that all Fire Certificated premises conduct a weekly audibility fire alarm test with appropriate records kept.

Complete a asbestos survey of the business premises

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 requires that a risk assessment for asbestos presence is conducted where applicable. If asbestos is known to be present on-site, request access to the Asbestos Management Survey; it is the duty of the building owner or employer to provide one.

Other workplace safety considerations

The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 and 1984 states that the landlord has a duty of care to repair damages and keep property safely maintained. A detailed inspection of the property should ensure that stairs, floors and ceilings are in good condition and will not compromise the safety of staff. Windows should be in good condition and not cracked or smashed.

The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that adequate ventilation is provided; check that windows and doors allow adequate ventilation or that a specialised system is fully operational. Other requirements covered by this regulation include ensuring that suitable and sufficient sanitary facilities exist and that employees must be protected against dangerous substances.

A security assessment will also allow you to identify the potential risk of break in or vandalism. Review the building’s security systems and assess if they are satisfactory to protect against existing threats. Building Regulations also require that property is accessible to people with limited mobility, impaired sight or hearing.

Overall, it is clear that a risk assessment is vital when assessing the suitability of new premises. As a prospective tenant, ensure that you are familiar with your legal responsibilities and take steps to assess the safety and suitability of the properties available.

‘How to undertake a risk assessment for a new premises’ was written by , head of marketing at Workspace.

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