In this increasingly litigious society, bodies corporate have to take safety very seriously. Under workplace health and safety legislation, owners of premises have specific obligations to maintain their property to minimise the potential for accidents to occur (called officially minimising risks) In practice this means commonly minimising the chances of slips, trips and falls
If you have a small complex with minimal common areas (say a block with a common driveway, garage entrance areas, a little lawn, with or without clothes lines and simple, solid stairways leading to the units), it would seem to be relatively simple for committee members with common sense to do their own health and safety inspections.
More complicated buildings (particularly where there are lifts or machinery in body corporate areas or where there are many different visitors such as holidaymakers or customers) are best inspected by professional workplace health and safety organisations.
Has your complex had a professional report before? If so, the body corporate manager (or secretary if there is no body corporate manager) should have the report or be able to get a copy. Committee members (particularly the ones who are going to self inspect) should read the report thoroughly and then do an inspection based on that report and add any other items that could look like a hazard, now or in the future.
It is best if two committee members conduct the inspection together and then countersign the report on what they have found.
If those people do come up with a likely hazard, now or in the future, and that hazard is thought likely to deteriorate or be a bigger risk in the future, it is wise to take a digital photo of the hazard, storing a copy of that photograph with the written report. You as a committee have to “manage the risk” – do something about it if it requires immediate attention (examples would include a crack in a footpath area big enough to cause people to trip and fall, you have to have it repaired immediately. Floor tiles that are slippery when wet should have a coating applied to make them non-slip)
You do not have to fix problems that have not occurred yet, just note the potential hazard and have it fixed when it becomes a hazard.
An important consideration is the liability – that is why professionals are used in more complicated bodies corporate or when committees are not confident that they are sufficiently competent to conduct their own inspections. The professional workplace health and safety companies have their own insurance.
Your committee office-holder liability insurance should cover your subcommittee members when they conduct the inspections and present the committee with a report.
It is basically common sense – after all no one wants to be responsible for anyone hurting themselves in common areas or in bodies corporate generally, do they?
Source:. Workplace Health & Safety, Qld Department of Industrial Relations www.whs.qld.gov.au particularly fact sheet “Apartment owner occupiers and bodies corporate”