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Health and safety checklist

Health and safety checklist

This content describes the health and safety issues associated with the inspection process.

This is live content and is supporting information only. It is not intended to be mandatory or prescriptive guidance.

Please refer back to the RICS Home Survey Standard 1st edition Professional Statement, s3.4.2 Safety during the inspection.

RICS members or regulated firms should be familiar with the current edition of Surveying safely: health and safety principles for property professionals RICS guidance note.

RICS has produced a range of practical guides to enable RICS professionals to work safely and in line with government guidelines through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RICS COVID-19 guide to surveying services: Physical inspections for the purpose of residential valuations and condition-based surveys includes recommendations for before, during and after a physical inspection.

You can find useful information on vendor liaison and equipment checklist to support the delivery of the service safely and in accordance with existing guidance and relevant legislation.

Whatever the level of service, RICS members must be able to safely undertake the tasks involved or manage others undertaking those same tasks.

The RICS member is responsible for carefully inspecting the property in accordance with the nature and level of service, the terms of engagement and client needs.

Many firms will have their own policies on health and safety considerations for physical inspections. Please refer to your company’s policy throughout the delivery of your service.

Pre-inspection

Prior to inspection, ensure you know the location of the subject property and can identify suitable parking.

For health and safety reasons, make sure someone knows where you are and you adhere to lone working policies.

Make sure your phone has enough power for the inspection . Go to the inspection in daylight wherever possible and organise your day so you are not inspecting buildings in a fading light. If there are limitations to your inspection due to visibility, please advise the client on report delivery.

RICS members need to be familiar with the nature and complexity of the locality in which the subject property is situated and risks associated with hazardous materials . Appendix E Risk to occupants of the RICS Home Survey Standard 1st edition Professional Statement highlights typical safety hazards in residential dwellings that can be found during an inspection. Surveyors should have an awareness of these risks prior to inspection and incorporate them as part of their risk assessment.

Travelling to the inspection

You should be aware of the following occupational road risks when travelling to the inspection. Surveyors should also refer to their own company policies, if applicable.

Weather

The heightened road risk that can be presented by all types of weather conditions, including heavy snow fall, flooding etc and not drive if it is unsafe to do so.

Tiredness

Driving when tired is a major cause of accidents. You should not drive if you are too tired. Further guidance on driving hours and break periods can be found at the HSE https://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/drivingforwork.htm

Mobile phones

When using a mobile device, please comply with relevant legislation.

Surveyors should take all necessary precautions to reduce personal risk and should refer to their company policies.

On arrival at the property

Undertake a dynamic risk assessment prior to starting an inspection, subject to the specific property and according to the level of service.

Surveyors should refer to their own company policies on risks assessments for inspections.

Assess the level of risk (high/medium/low), and identify how you plan to minimise the risk. This gives evidence you have considered health and safety issues and may be useful if an accident does happen.

If you decide the identified risks will limit your inspection in any way, it is important that you explain this in your site inspection notes and possibly in your report where it might affect the scope of your inspection.

Lone working

A lone worker (LW) is an employee who performs an activity that is carried out in isolation from other workers without close or direct supervision. Surveyors should refer to their company policies on lone working if applicable.

Personal safety

Due to the solitary nature of the work, lone workers can be vulnerable to personal attack or incidents. No procedure or instruction can cover all possible circumstances, however, every organisation should have adequate procedures in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their lone working employees.

In an emergency situation in a remote location, use 112 instead of 999 to call emergency services. In marginal signal areas , there are mobile applications which will automatically pinpoint the caller’s position.

For security purposes, many mobile phone owners lock their phones requiring a passcode to be entered to access the device. The majority of mobile phones now provide access to a list of emergency contacts from the locked screen. For android phones this is called ICE (In Case of Emergency), for iPhones this is called ‘Medical ID’ and can be located via the iPhone Health App.

This emergency contact facility enables first responders, such as paramedics, firefighters and police offers as well as hospital personnel to contact the owner of the mobile phones emergency contacts, such as next of kin or close friend to advise of an incident and potentially obtain important medical or support information. It is advised to record at least two emergency contact numbers in accordance with their particular handset.

When you arrive at the property, as stated above, try to find a space as close as possible to the destination and avoid parking in concealed areas away from public view. If parking in a cul-de-sac, ensure car is parked facing in the direction of a clear exit. Keep valuables and equipment out of sight.

When you are in someone's property, remember it is their home and you are imposing upon their territory.

When gaining access to the property, state who you are, why you are there and show the person your ID or business card. Check who you are talking to and make sure it is the same person with whom you arranged access. If not, consider carefully whether you should go in.

In some cases, the property may be occupied by a tenant who may know very little about the building or even the fact it is about to go on sale. In these circumstances, an accompanied inspection with the property owner might be better.

If the only person in the property during the inspection is below the age of 18, or is someone who you judge to be vulnerable in some way, you must postpone your inspection until an adult or carer can be present.

In all instances, surveyors should refer to their company’s policies on personal safety.

Dealing with dangerous pets

If dogs or other animals appear threatening, politely ask the vendor/ occupier to keep them out of the way.

It is also important to ask if there are animals outside before you inspect the garden or grounds. If applicable, refer to your company policies on health and safety.

The inspection

When carrying out the inspection, familiarise yourself with the layout of the dwelling and be aware of exit points from the property to enable you to leave safely , and quickly if the need arises.

Remember to keep your car keys, equipment, mobile phone, and/or valuables safe during the inspection. It is best to keep them with you at all times.

Make every effort not to damage the property. If you do damage anything, it is essential you inform the vendor or occupier immediately. Where the damage is less serious, you need to settle the matter quickly and effectively to make sure you maintain a good relationship with the vendor. Where practical, take photos of the damage for evidence and also inform your employer. If this limits your scope of inspection, highlight limitations on the report.

Surveyors should always refer to company policies when dealing with valuables, occupants’ behaviours and/ or risks associated with unoccupied properties, which may disrupt their ability to carry out the inspection. If problems are identified, ensure this is captured in site notes and limitations are reflected in the report.

If you injure yourself during the inspection, consider postponing the inspection until you have recovered.

Property-specific safety issues

Two of the most hazardous parts of a surveyor's job are loft inspections and surveys of derelict property.

RICS members should refer to the current edition of the Surveying safely: health and safety principles for property professionals, RICS guidance note and the Health & Safety executive.

Below is some useful information on safety for each of these.

Safety during loft inspections

Inspecting a roof space can present the greatest and most regular risk during a surveyor's day. Below are a few tips:

To use a ladder, the user must be competent, have had instructions and understand how to use the equipment safely.

Training will ensure that sufficient skills, knowledge and experience are provided to perform the task.

Ladders should be inspected to ensure safety and in accordance with company policies. A detailed ladder inspection should be undertaken by a competent person and recorded on organisations Statutory Ladders Register. This record should be kept for the lifespan of the ladder. There are a number of BSI standards for ladders which can be found here. Further information can also be found at the Ladder Association here.

Working at height should be avoided where it is reasonably practicable to do so. Where work at height cannot be avoided and depending on the agreed nature of service, ensure you take precautions to safely deliver the service and utilise the e right type of equipment. Where the risk cannot be eliminated the surveyor should:

  • Do as much work as possible from the ground.
  • Ensure they can get safely to and from where they are working at height.
  • Ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job; maintained and checked regularly.
  • Make sure they do not overload or overreach when working at height.
  • Take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces.
  • Use an approved stability device (where an in-built stability device is not present) for any equipment used to work at height.
  • Where applicable, wear personal protective equipment in the form of hard hat to provide protection from falling objects.
  • Consider emergency evacuation and rescue problems.
  • If weather conditions compromise safety when working at height, the activity should not proceed.

When using ladders, surveyors should know how to set up ladders and stepladders in the correct, safe manner.

Surveyors should refer to existing company policies and the current edition of the Surveying safely: health and safety principles for property professionals, RICS guidance note.

Users should be competent, trained and instructed to use the equipment safely. Manufacturer’s instructions should be referred to.

Roof Voids   

Surveyors should carry out an inspection of roof space that is not more than 3 metres above floor level using a ladder if it is safe and reasonable to do so.

Surveyors will need to have to look inside roof voids and often enter into them. In all cases, the Surveyor should judge whether it is practicable, permitted and safe to carry out a roof void inspection. If not, the inspection should not be attempted and the reasons why made clear in the site notes and report.

There are obvious risks when entering a loft space and the aim is to eliminate or reduce the risk of an incident arising from the various hazards encountered. In this instance the hazard is unknown and so to enter a loft, it needs to be assessed that the method is safe and the equipment stable for both the climb and when moving off the access equipment into the loft.

Before entering, look up as far as you can see to look out for obstructions or dangers. Use a torch if necessary. Look for signs of infestation that might be dangerous such as wasps, rodents, squirrels, bats etc. Ensure compliance with legislation in relation to legally protected species i.e. bats. Please refer to the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (as amended) for further information.

Be careful not to touch contaminated areas as there is risk from urine, faeces etc.

If floor decking is fitted, check its suitability and whether it is securely fixed down.. Check for protruding nail heads and other hazards which may cause injury and do not walk where you cannot establish safe footing.

If loose or breaking up asbestos is seen, exit the roof immediately causing as little disturbance to the material as possible and follow your company’s emergency procedures.

In all instances, if it is not deemed to be safe, do not enter roof void but carry out a head and shoulders inspection from the loft hatch.

Surveyors should refer to own company policies and highlight risks that may limit the inspection in the report.

Flat Roofs

The Surveyor should judge whether it is practicable, permitted and safe to carry out a flat roof inspection. If it is not considered safe, the flat roof inspection should not be attempted and the reasons why made clear in the site notes and report.

Without risk of causing damage to the property or injury to the Surveyor, a flat roof should be visually inspected from vantage points within the property and/or by using a ladder externally where there is safe and reasonable access to a flat roof(s) not more than 3m above ground level.

This would include looking out for dangerous materials, a variety of animals and inspects in the loft and personal safety relating to dust.

When inspecting roofs, surveyors should refer to their company policies, comply with relevant legistlation and ensure risks are recorded in site notes. If this limits the scope of inspection, the limitations should be clearly highlighted to the client in the report.

Derelict and empty properties

Some of the properties you inspect will be empty. If this is the case, clarify how you are going to gain access to the property as part of your vendor liaison pre-inspection process.

Being alone in an empty dwelling increases the level of risk, surveyors should be aware of risks in relation to empty properties.

Properties left empty for long periods of time can become neglected allowing defects to develop quickly. Stagnant conditions can allow dormant wood rot to weaken timber floors and roof leaks will cause ceilings to collapse. Vandalism will often result in broken glass and sharp edges throughout the dwelling and drug-using squatters may leave contaminated syringes. Take the following precautions:

  • dress in robust and durable clothing including footwear that is suited to the conditions;
  • ensure you have a powerful torch with you, as many rooms may have their windows boarded over and will be in virtual darkness;
  • look for dangling wires, bare cables and a smell of gas, as electric and gas services in empty properties can pose a danger especially if damaged through vandalism; and
  • be prepared during the winter, as empty properties can be cold.

If you discover an unauthorised person(s) at the property, inform the person responsible for the property and ask them to contact you when it is safe to inspect.

The same approach is appropriate if you discover signs of unauthorised occupation and/or the property is unsecured.

RICS member/ regulated firm will continue to use professional judgement and undertake a dynamic risk assessment to deliver their role safely and in accordance with best practice guidance, standards and legislations.

RICS members and RICS regulated firms are expected to behave ethically and professionally, while taking adequate steps to consider health and safety at all times for all parties involved.

Refer to the to the RICS Home Survey Standard 1st edition Professional Statement and make sure any limitations are clearly highlighted to client as part of your service delivery.

In addition, refer to your own company policies on health and safety.

The information contained here is regularly reviewed to support members in safely delivering the highest level of service.