Top Health and Safety Challenges for Facilities Managers

Facilities managers of all types of properties must deal with critical health and safety issues.

This applies to commercial, residential and retail properties.

Various responsibilities are integral to the FM role, including:

  • Managing the property
  • Providing various services to occupants such as leaseholders and tenants
  • Managing rental and other payments
  • Looking after the building’s insurance
  • General maintenance
  • Health and safety.

These responsibilities are interconnected and interdependent with health and safety as core concerns.

For example, general maintenance of the building should help keep the asset safe and prevent accidents or injuries from occurring.

Also, keeping a watchful eye on health and safety is a part of general property management, helping ensure that leaseholders and tenants are satisfied. This has implications for the landlord attracting business and being able to justify charging rents at competitive rates.

Health and Safety Risk Assessments

Conducting health and safety risk assessments is a core part of the FM’s role.

These assessments should include the top health and safety challenges of facilities management:

  • Fire safety
  • Electrical
  • Asbestos
  • Water tanks
  • Working at height
  • Communal areas.

Facilities managers must carry out fire safety inspections to meet government regulations. This requires that they identify potential fire hazards and risk areas and act to remove or reduce them.

The safety of electrical systems and devices is vital in both residential and commercial settings. This requires a regular and thorough risk assessment.

Building owners or landlords must manage asbestos and inspect buildings for which they have responsibility for any traces of it. A broad range of materials containing asbestos was used in construction up until 1999. Asbestos can be in ceiling tiles, insulation and other parts of a building’s fabric.

Legionella poses another potential health hazard. This bacteria can cause legionnaire’s disease and it grows in water tanks and systems. People can contract the disease from breathing in water droplets from air conditioning systems and plumbing. This is why regular inspection of water tanks and legionella risk assessments are a fundamental part of the FM’s role.

The biggest causes of fatal injuries are falls from high places. Accidents can happen when employees or other service providers are working at height, such as doing maintenance when up a ladder. The FM must assess risks connected with working at height.

In some locations, there is a risk of exposure to dangerous substances. Various cleaning materials, disinfectants, air fresheners and paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can emit gases that are harmful if inhaled.

Older buildings may still contain lead pipework, which again can be potentially harmful if it gets into water supplies. Cooking and heating products can produce carbon monoxide. At high concentrations, this is harmful and can be lethal.

The FM must conduct careful risk assessments of such substances.

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