BCON Report

Increasing demands on bodies corporate

Being on a body corporate committee is becoming even more and more complicated. Resort managers in community titles schemes are automatic members of the committees for the complex.

Where there are lots of off-site owners, the on-site managers are especially important in the management of the complex.

More and more government regulations are imposing extra things that committees have to do or organise others to do. Failure to act to conform to some of these regulations can have serious consequences, yet there is increasing evidence that many complexes are ignoring their obligations. We all know that times are tough, costs are going up and the returns for investors are paltry and people in general are feeling poor and insecure.

But it is important that committees and managers insist that the complex conform to the regulations.

A recent front page story in The Australian newspaper tells of savage monetary penalties for individuals and organisations who do not comply with the new workplace health and safety laws. The OH&S laws are planned to become Australia-wide. The new laws have already come in to effect in New South Wales and Queensland and other states will follow.

The article says scout halls and lifesaving clubs and churches are now workplaces under the new laws so it seems to us that most bodies corporate almost certainly will be caught as well.

A recent newsletter from MacGillivrays solicitors says that “if the body corporate engages any worker as an employee, the body corporate will be expected to comply with the WH&S laws. It may also be the case that a resident unit manager engaged by the body corporate as a contractor (which is usually the case in a management rights business) may have duties under the WH&S laws as a person conducting a business or undertaking.”

One of the new obligations for bodies corporate under the Work Health & Safety Act 2010 and associated regulations is to have an asbestos register. If the building was built before 31 December 2003, it should have an asbestos register. If there is asbestos in the complex, the idea is that it should be located and managed so that it stays safe. The register should have details of locations and an asbestos alert sticker should be displayed near the electrical switchboard. It is particularly important for complexes to comply with the new asbestos register. For their own personal health and safety and to conform to the new law, professional tradespeople will not work on complexes without knowing where the asbestos is located and that a professional register has been established. More details on how to comply with the new Work Health & Safety Act and links to useful government information can be obtained from www.bodycorporatematters.com.au

The Australian newspaper reported: “Breaches by organisations under the new OHS regime can attract fines of up to $3 million while workers, including volunteers, face penalties of up to $300,000 or five years in jail.” Seems to me to be a no-brainer for all of us on committees to make sure we have an updated OH&S report done by an independent consultancy.

Yet I did a bit of a strawpoll around well known report writing consultants working in our industry and the companies I contacted are nowhere near as busy as they could be.

Many owners and managers are apparently burying their heads in the sand. At the Body Corporate Owners Network we advise people not to assume responsibility themselves and to obtain independent safety audits so that their liability is limited and they have been seen to want to conform to the law.

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