Sectional title trustees should be aware of risks in employing contractors

Body corporate trustees and managing agents in sectional title schemes do not escape liability for on-site injuries according to the new construction regulations contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

New regulations hold trustees of bodies corporate responsible if workers are injured in sectional title or homeowners’ association complexes – even if the trustees haven’t been informed that work is being undertaken on site.

In fact, the construction regulations apply to all properties and all owners. It’s just that in sectional title properties, apartments, business complexes and multi-tenanted office buildings, the trustees form another layer of authority that can be called to account for any accident that may occur on the property.

“There are a number of simple things you can do to ameliorate the risk to trustees and owners,” says Clint Riddin, senior practitioner of specialist property accounting practice Clint Riddin and Associates, and himself the chairperson of a large body corporate.

“Make sure your sectional title property has a baseline risk assessment that becomes its health and safety file. The trustees, owners and managing agents must have a copy of this file and a copy must be given to any contractor or worker quoting on a job or before commencing any work.”

For further protection against a wide range of risks associated with this legislation, Riddin advises getting specialised insurance through a reputable firm. Although injured workers may, of course, seek redress through the courts, a properly tailored insurance product transfers the responsibility for dealing with that process and claim away from the trustee or owners and onto the insurance company.

SaXum Insurance has developed special cover for these types of risk. Its occupational health and safety insurance product is designed to protect property owners, body-corporate trustees and property managers, and includes public liability, professional indemnity and directors’ and officers’ liability, says consultant Pierre Marais.

“The latter clauses are crucial as are the covers for legal defence costs for trustees when you consider, in most cases, they are volunteers performing the task for little or no compensation,” says Riddin.

“The regulations are law, so no-one can simply opt out of these responsibilities. The solution is straightforward, though: Complete a risk assessment, ensure easy access to the health and safety file, and get specially tailored insurance.”

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