Being placed in the position of coordinating both mechanical and building systems, and dealing with a variety of issues personal to clients’ homes, has the potential to place property managers in harm’s way. How can property managers stay safe when they face so many potential hazards in the workplace?
Personal safety should be a priority in all workplaces; however, there is joint responsibility in managing risks. If employers and employees work together to minimize risk, everyone can benefit from a safer work environment.
Know the risks
A responsible employer will ensure that their property managers have access to information and reporting tools specific to safety in the workplace. This might include physical hazards as well as workplace violence and harassment.
Employers and employees should familiarize themselves with the Employment Standards Act and meet their individual obligations. It is the responsibility of everyone —whether it be the employer, employee or condominium corporation — to ensure a safe environment and to take all reasonable steps to plan before disaster strikes.
Staying safe when disaster strikes
While property managers always want to be everything to everyone, they must remain aware of the situation at hand and must never put their personal safety at risk. For example, in the event of an engulfed fire, do not personally try to put out the fire. For another example, in the event of a major water pipe break, do not personally try to clamp the pipe.
Managers must always have well-thought-out policies and procedures in place so that the appropriate person may be contacted to address the situation at hand. Managers must know who to call, and when to call them, but in most cases should not be expected to personally rectify the emergency situation. In addition, employees have the right to refuse unsafe work in accordance with the Employment Standards Act.
Managers must be able to consider all the risks in real time to make an informed decision. It’s important to consider potential scenarios in advance to avoid great personal risk as well as serious cost implications for the property. For example, if a property manager is responding to major flooding, it would be critical to recognize the possibility of live electrical wiring and that certain areas may be structurally unsound and therefore unsafe to enter. Property managers should look to licensed and trained contractors as partners in identifying and rectifying these hazards.
Managers must also remember to respect police, fire and municipal or other government officials who initially respond to emergency situations. The role of property managers is to assist first responders as necessary but property managers must always remember that they themselves are not first responders. The role of the property manager is to help with information and direction where required, and resolve subsequent and resulting damage or concerns from the emergency situation.
Tips for day-to-day safety
Certain activities can result in unnecessary risk. Being proactive in considering personal safety can help keep property managers out of harm’s way.
One strategy would be to identify dangerous or restricted areas of a condominium and stay clear of them. Allow trades with appropriate training and safety gear to take responsibility for areas such as the transformer room, elevator shafts and external rooftops.
Property managers should also be mindful of who they are meeting, especially if they are going alone.
Finally, consider a strict no-cash policy in the office. Access to cash promotes theft, so it is prudent both from a safety and fraud prevention perspective to accept payments only via cheque, money order, or debit/credit card (if available).
In high-rise buildings, where there may be security staff or superintendents, the property manager may want to use a buddy system. They can let each other know where they will be going and who they will be meeting throughout the day. They can also check in with each other at agreed upon intervals so that in the event something happens, the other staff members know how to check on their buddy.
The Ministry of Labour notes that “We are all responsible — employers, supervisors and workers — for preventing workplace illness and injury.” When everyone works together and makes a genuine commitment to safety, it’s possible to reduce the risk of personal injury and make workplaces much safer, even as inevitable emergency situations arise. Property managers should speak to their employer about potential risks and be aware of hazards in their work environment.
Lyndsey McNally, RCM, is team leader at Malvern Condominium Property Management. Her main focus is on policy development and quality assurance.
Andre LeBlanc, RCM, is operations manager at Malvern Condominium Property Management and has been managing condominiums of all types for approximately 15 years.