We’ve worked in a co-working space for almost two years now and spoken to more than a dozen in and around London alone. When it comes to who is liable for health and safety within the space, there seems to be a mixture of confusion and uncertainty. We spoke to Stephen Flounders, the Head of Health and Safety at our partner’s System Concepts, to shed some light on the issue and offer some advice. Here’s what Stephen had to say:
The increasing popularity of co-working spaces, where people can rent desk space and share facilities with their co-tenants, is indicative of how the way we work is evolving. But change and innovation often introduce new risks, and co-working spaces are no exception.
Those who own and operate co-working spaces have a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the space and any equipment provided within it is safe. Those using the space must ensure that their work does not put others at risk.
Who is responsible for doing what will often depend on the type of space being used and the facilities provided by the operator. Some basic things to consider include:
- Are suitable desks and chairs available to workers who will be using a computer for long periods?
- Has information on what to do in an emergency been communicated to users?
- Are there arrangements for first aid, or do co-workers need to consider this themselves?
- Are there procedures that need to be followed for visitors, and are there any restricted areas?
- What checks does the operator make on the condition of the space, and how should the co-workers report any problems or defects?
- Does the operator inform users when contractors are going to be on-site to carry out maintenance or repairs?
The work that users do may also create risks and responsibilities. For example, if a design business brings its own 3D printers into a space, they need to ensure that risks such as burns, emissions and moving parts are assessed and managed.
Operators and users should record how they manage safety in the space. Owners should record tasks such as maintenance and inspections, whilst users should record their own checks and inspections.
It is important for those who use co-working spaces to be satisfied that they are working in a safe environment. When doing their due diligence on a potential space, users should think of risk, safety and liability in equal importance as rates, facilities and WiFi coverage. If operators and users understand their responsibilities, the space will be safe for businesses to collaborate and thrive.
Read our co-working case study to find out how community managers are using tillr to ensure well-documented inspections are carried out and that they are covered should anything serious happen.