The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
Following the Government’s announcement last week, businesses are considering how a return to work might look. With many premises being left unoccupied (or minimally occupied) during the lockdown, both Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive have warned of the increased risks of Legionella growth in stagnant and unused water systems.
Legionella – employers’ obligations
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a duty on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes the provision and maintenance of systems and facilities that are safe and do not cause risks to the health of employees.
Employers are also required to control substances that are hazardous to health, including germs that cause diseases (such as Legionella bacteria which can cause Legionnaires’ disease) in accordance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (‘COSHH’). COSHH requires that employers prevent or reduce exposure to hazardous substances by assessing the risks and implementing appropriate control measures.
The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance states that any water system that has the ‘right’ environmental conditions could potentially be a source for Legionella bacteria. As such, a water hygiene risk assessment should be carried out by employers (or a contractor appointed by the person in control of the premises) for all water systems. This assessment should be regularly reviewed.
What are the risks during/following the Covid-19 pandemic?
Following the Government’s measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19, a significant proportion of the UK population has been required to stay at home, leaving many buildings unoccupied for weeks, possibly months.
Ensuring that water does not stagnate in the system is crucial to reducing the risk of Legionella. There is, therefore, an increased likelihood of Legionella bacteria building up in the water systems of buildings left unoccupied (or with minimal occupancy).
If your premises have been unoccupied or minimally occupied during the crisis, there may be an increased health risk to occupants upon their return.
It is important not to assume that because the water system on your premises was previously low risk, it will remain so after a period of disuse. Buildings should not be re-occupied until duty-holders have taken all reasonably practicable precautions to control any water hygiene-related risks that may have arisen during the lockdown. Businesses should promptly review their current water hygiene risk assessment to reflect current usage and consider whether there is a heightened risk of Legionella as a result of the lockdown.
Where risk is identified, appropriate next steps (such as interim control measures or water testing and/or treatments) should be determined and actioned in a timely manner, and in any event, prior to the premises being re-occupied.
For further guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, please see here.
For more information
Should you require any advice regarding employers’ health and safety obligations, please contact Lorna Kenyon from our Regulatory team.
Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
Throughout this pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been publishing various “Statements on Coronavirus” (Statements) which provide guidance on consumer rights during this time.
A recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the UK means new measures are being put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of a second wave. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, it is important to remain focused on the sector’s road to recovery.
Sometimes half an hour at a conference gives you the reality that has been staring you in the face all along. That was my experience watching “Change is on the Horizon”
Following our recent e-briefing on Possession Notices, Helen Tucker and Emilie Pownall from our housing litigation team discuss the impact of the changes on social landlords.
Not only has the possession stay been extended until 20 September, the notice periods to be given to tenants has been extended in certain circumstances with some important exceptions.
The Court has confirmed that a party cannot withhold its consent in order to re-write the original bargain.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, building safety continues to be a key concern for social housing providers and their residents.
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