Think HBR

Make sure your strata is safe

Brad Gribble
Strata developments are often busy places with more people movements than freestanding houses. What do owners corporations
need to do to keep their strata safe and what are their responsibilities under legislation?
The answer depends on the type of strata development and whether the owner’s corporation has employees.
Residential strata generally exempt but not mixed use, commercial or industrial strata schemes:
Under the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 duties apply to persons conducting a business or undertaking. However, owners
responsible for common areas used only for residential purposes are generally excluded unless they employ a worker. The laws treat
owners and occupiers of residential units or flats in the same way as owners and occupiers of detached residential dwellings.
The exemption does not affect duties under other laws including laws relating to negligence and strata laws more generally.
It is important to note that where the development is mixed use, commercial or industrial the WHS laws apply.
Employing a worker in a residential strata scheme:
Once a residential owner’s corporation employs someone to carry out a job then they become an employer (also called a PCBU). They
have a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers they engage, direct or influence.
An example is when an owner’s corporation employs someone to mow the front lawn as an employee. That front lawn would become a
workplace. Hiring a contractor to mow the loan would likely mean the owner’s corporation is still exempt as contractors are not employees.
Another example is a caretaker. Again if the person is employed by the owners corporation WHS duties apply to it.
Safety responsibility if not exempt:
If the owner’s corporation is not exempt from the work health and safety laws it must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable,
the health and safety of its workers. Workplace entrances and exits, as well as fixtures, fittings, machinery, appliances and tools,
should be free of risks to the health and safety of workers and other people. There are a range of penalties (up to $3 million) if a
corporation is found guilty of not following WHS laws.
Safety is everyone’s duty:
Residents, tenants, visitors and owners corporation officers should all take reasonable care of their own health and safety and
the health and safety of others. If they are given an instruction by the employer or person carrying out a business they need to
comply with that instruction as far as reasonably able.
When employing contractors, owners corporations and their officers should to check references and documents and ask
questions to ensure contractors have a good safety record, a good approach to safety and the required licences and insurances.
Make contractors aware of known risks, check work is being carried out safely and be available to discuss and resolve safety
Encourage a safety culture in your strata development and check your specific responsibilities with a lawyer or strata
management company.
For further information contact LakeGroupStrata on (02) 4942 3305,
Brad Gribble Brad Gribble

Is a Director of strata and community title manager Lake Group Strata.
Brad has 21 years property industry experience and Lake Group Strata is celebrating 20 years of operations. Lake Group Strata was a finalist in the Professional Commitment to Ethics and Service category and Strata Industry Leader of the Year category in the 2014 Strata Community Australia Awards.