Q&A – If multiple employers share the same building, who is responsible for prevention?

A common occurrence: different employers renting premises in the same building. Are they each individually responsible for meeting the obligations under the well-being legislation? And which role does the building owner play?

If several employers employ staff in the same building, they are all required to devise a prevention policy. After all, well-being legislation applies to every employer and involves obligations. For example, every employer must set up a dynamic risk management system: a systematic prevention policy that is continuously being improved. In practice, they have to develop policies to safeguard the well-being of employees while they carry out their work. The objective of these policies is to prevent accidents at work and occupational diseases.

Dynamic risk management system

A prevention policy must take into account specific legal and regulatory provisions. The dynamic risk management system translates into a comprehensive prevention plan and an annual action plan.

A comprehensive prevention plan must be drawn up every five years. In addition to the results of the risk analysis, it describes the priority objectives and the resulting actions. It also includes the definition and assignment of responsibilities and the resources made available.

The annual action plan is the step-by-step development of the comprehensive prevention plan. For each exercise, it covers the same topics and also mentions possible adjustments to the comprehensive prevention plan, for example due to changed circumstances.

What about fire prevention?

Every employer is also required to set up the necessary safeguards in the field of fire prevention. Specifically, this means that they need to perform a risk assessment and take all possible measures to prevent fire and to ensure that the evacuation of workers is well organised. When compiling the fire prevention file, you can also contact the landlord to come to an agreement on fire-fighting equipment. Make sure all such agreements are laid down in the lease contract to avoid any disputes.

Asbestos management

Each employer draws up an inventory of all asbestos and asbestos-containing material. If the substance proves to be present, a management programme has to be drawn up. This programme describes what will happen to the asbestos-containing material and how to keep the employee’s exposure as low as possible.

Read more about the different steps of an asbestos inventory here.

What is the building owner’s role on matters of fire and asbestos?

Usually, the tenant’s and landlord’s obligations are included in the lease contract. The building owner is also required to provide all the information requested by the employers: to draw up an asbestos inventory for instance. The employer therefore depends at least in part on the owner to be able to comply with the legislation.

The employer-lessee can seek indemnification from the owner-lessor if a building is severely contaminated with asbestos. In such a case, the owner must take care of the asbestos removal. If the contamination is less important, investigations must determine whether the works to be carried out can be regarded as repair work. Major repairs are borne by the lessor, while minor repairs are the lessee’s responsibility.

If, as an employer-lessee, you determine the presence of asbestos, you are advised to declare the owner in default. It will then have to intervene on the basis of the principles of civil law. Criminal law may also be invoked in such a case. If the building owner refuses to cooperate, it can be prosecuted as a co-perpetrator or accessory.

If different employers rent a building, they can join forces. If private individuals are among the lessees, only certain indirect obligations can be imposed on them through the lease agreement.

Need to optimise your prevention policy?

Mensura can help you perform a risk analysis on safety. Our experts can also assist you with matters of fire prevention or asbestos inventory. Please call us on 02 549 71 00 or email us at info.edpb@mensura.be if you need assistance.

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