Anyone with control of non-domestic premises (such as a village or community hall) has legal responsibilities under health and safety law.
They must take reasonable measures to ensure the hall, access to it and any equipment or substances provided are safe for people using it, so far as is 'reasonably practicable'. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.
Responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the hall may be organised by the owner or by a voluntary management committee.
The owner, for example a community association, charitable trust, or local authority, is likely to have health and safety duties (and fire safety duties) for those who use the hall where they still have control over it. For example, they should keep it in good repair, and have appropriate fire precautions in place.
Owners may delegate responsibility to others to manage the premises, and this may include voluntary organisations such as a management committee. Where a change of ownership takes place, both parties should make clear who has responsibility for health and safety. This may take the form of a written contract.
The management committee
A management committee can be regarded as a legal entity under health and safety law, even if it doesn't employ anyone and is only made up of volunteers.
It has no responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act for risks created by the work activity of others, such as those maintaining the building, or for the activities organised by those who use the hall.
However, where a management committee has control over the hall, they should take reasonable measures to ensure that the following are safe for the expected use:
- the building
- the access and egress to it
- any equipment or substances provided there
Where more than one person or organisation has control over a building, they will all have joint responsibility for it.
We have developed a simple checklist which summarises the areas you may need to consider if your organisation has responsibilities for managing a hall. These include:
- legionnaires' disease
- movement around the building
- electrical equipment and services
- gas equipment and services
- car park – access for emergency vehicles etc