fire extinguisher

Who is responsible for health and safety in sectional title schemes?

In sectional title schemes there is a collective responsibility on the various owners to ensure their scheme is well managed and maintained.

This collective responsibility extends to the critical aspect of health and safety. It is generally understood that the body corporate is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the common areas while the owners are responsible for the inside of their units.

South African Law and Sectional Title

Sectional title schemes are obligated to adhere to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 2003 (OHSA). The general purpose of this Act is to provide health and safety to those persons working on any type of machinery or equipment and for those persons using it, protection against potential hazards to their health and safety.

Bodies corporate and owners often make use of contractors to attend to maintenance on common property or in individual units. In both these instances, trustees and owners must ensure that their chosen contractor complies with the regulations in the OHSA.

As the body corporate is not the employer of the contractor, they must ensure that the contractor takes responsibility for their own health and safety while working on the common property. The objective is for the contractor to exempt the body corporate from any possible liability due to health and safety incidents. For this reason, the body corporate must obtain a signed indemnity form from the contractor that indemnifies the body corporate from any liability.

Where an owner appoints a contractor, it is that individual’s responsibility to ensure that the contractor complies with the regulations of the OHSA. Again, a signed indemnity form that indemnifies the owner against any health and safety incidents is strongly advisable.

Areas of compliance

The following areas of health and safety are paramount. The trustees are responsible for ensuring compliance in these areas:

1. Signage

The complex must have disclaimer signage displayed in prominent positions around the common property. Signage is also required to indicate evacuation procedure, the position of firefighting equipment, emergency numbers and procedures at lifts, and where there are stairs with handrails.

Trustees must ensure that visible signage is displayed to indicate potential hazards on the common property, such as a slippery walkways due to rain.

2. Lifts

Emergency contact numbers and procedures must be displayed both inside the lift and outside each lift landing. All lifts need to undergo a monthly maintenance inspection and an Annexure B inspection every 24 months to certify the lift as safe for public use and to comply with the health and safety requirements of the OHSA.

3. Pools

All pool areas must be enclosed with a fence and the pool must be covered with a suitable net. The pool gate should also be equipped with a spring-activated lock mechanism and relevant disclaimer signage must be displayed visibly.

4. Firefighting equipment

A register must be kept of all the equipment in the complex. All equipment must be serviced annually and a sticker that displays when the next service is due should be displayed on each piece of equipment.

5. Compliance certificates

Once maintenance work, such as electrical, plumbing and items such as electric fences, has been completed, the scheme must obtain a compliance certificate to be kept in its records.

6. Cleaning contractors

Cleaning contractors are responsible for indicating the area they are cleaning by placing signage that is visible from all angles to alert the public of a potential slipping hazard.

7. Other contractors

The same applies to lift maintenance contractors, electricians and tree felling contractors who must display suitable signage indicating a potential hazard.

8. Public liability cover

Furthermore, the trustees must ensure that the scheme’s insurance policy has a minimum public liability cover of R10 million. This provides financial cover for any claims against the body corporate by a person who was injured on the common property.


We have found that owners are not always sure who is responsible for health and safety but the reality is that the trustees themselves have to take responsibility. If they fail in their duties, they may potentially be held responsible in their personal capacity.

It is important to keep track of the various items in a complex that must be maintained and certified. By using your managing agent to assist in this process, the responsibility of keeping up with health and safety issues can be made less cumbersome.