What is the Number One Task for any Building Manager?

Risk Management.

The first thing in building management, the number one priority, in our view, for the building manager, is risk management. Reduce, negate, remove, and avoid risk for all stakeholders in the facility. We view risk in two forms, the first is a tangible risk, which we define is a risk where you can see a possibility of personal injury, financial, and/or security risk.

The tangible risk is more physical, the other kind of risk we define as intangible, it is the risk of the possibility of the event creating a loss because some vital piece of information was unknown. Intangible risk can be considered to be encumbered into a scenario or situation and it’s the scope of depth is unknown at the time.

The Building manager’s number one priority is to be vigilant and proactive regarding risk.

The building manager will typically perform a “site walk” around their building (at least once a day) just to inspect and review. Their number one thought is “is there a risk here?”, “what if x event or situation arises, is there a risk to personal injury, financial, and/or security?”

Let break this down a little further, let’s think about customer care, the customer being the people, including the community which use the building facility and their risk. The task of the building manager is to manage risk and look after the best interests of the community, reducing or negating risk to all stakeholders wherever possible.
Consider the following as our priorities in managing risk

  • 1 Workplace health and safety
  • 2 Insurances
  • 3 Preserving value
  • 4 Maintaining Operations

The point we are trying to make here, is that although there are specific companies that deal purely in risk management, software for risk management and so forth, the building manager is at the “coal face” of the situation every business day. If your building management is not proactive in being vigilant to conserve or negate risk as much as possible, then the Owner’s Corporation (body Corporate) has a liability.

Keeping the building’s common areas clean and tidy, checking contractors for their licenses, making small ad-hoc repairs, recording and submitting documentation and a host of other duties are based upon reducing risk to the stakeholders of the building, either directly or indirectly, in the present day or at some late date in the future.

We place the risk of personal injury first, apart from the obvious care for life and personal well-being of others, there is also the financial burden on our society. Personal injury has a huge cost on our community which we often see the politicians declaring in the media. When people are hurt there is a cost (this sounds a little harsh) but it’s a fact of life.

In terms of the day-to-day management of risk, using the four priorities listed above, we have two examples that might make you rethink how you view the duties of your building manager, we offer many more, but my coffee is getting cold:

The First Thing In Building Management – Example #1 – the sub-contractor:

The building needs regular cleaning maintenance, including carpets, walls, architraves, gardens, lifts, tiled areas, and other assets in the common areas.

The Owners Corporation (body corporate) has engaged a cleaning company directly. The building manager will check and inspect the scope of works and the performance of the cleaning company as part of the building manager’s daily duties, the BM considers our list of priorities:

    • 1 – Workplace Health and Safety

Are the cleaners adhering to their safety system, are they putting signs in place? Did they provide notices to others? Are all chemicals being properly handled?

    • 2 – Insurances

Are all the cleaner’s insurances in place, including Public Liability and WorkCover? One would argue that the insurances should be checked and confirmed prior to the sub-contractor starting on site, this is indeed best practice, but, if the sub-contractor has been engaged by others and starts work on-site immediately, then the building manager would need to take control of safety first and then check the documentation. This documentation check should also include “job safety analysis”, “Safe work method statement”, “toolbox talks”, proof all workers know their safety system, proof workers have been inducted to the site, record of any standard safety course (white card) which is applicable to their works.

    • 3 – Preserving value

Are the cleaners performing the required task as per the scope of works? Are the works to a standard that is acceptable and outlined in the contract? Are the cleaners providing value for money in terms of effort to compensation as well as preserving the value of the assets they are being paid to clean?

    • 4 – Maintaining Operations

Have the cleaners performed their works without adversely affecting any other operations? Have the cleaners delivered their service to ensure continued operations of the assets they are working with? Are their works interfering with the operations of other parties in the building, can this be avoided?

The First Thing In Building Management – Example #2 – The Building

The typical apartment building is a complex array of plant equipment, fixed assets, and structure working together to perform a variety of functions in a symphony of operations to provide seamless and coherent functionality of the building; the building manager is performing their daily walk of the site and observes a fire extinguisher is missing from the hook which it usually occupies. The fire extinguisher is a part of the essential services and forms part of the system for legislation compliance of the building. The BM considers our list of priorities:

    • 1 – Health and Safety

There is a logical risk in case of a fire.

    • 2 – Insurances

There may be a requirement to ensure all fire and essential services are intact as far as humanly possible as a requirement of the insurance policy. (this is worthwhile asking your insurance company for further details or reviewing their insurance policy, do you know the parameters of the insurance policy of your building?)

    • 3 – Preserving Value

The fire extinguisher is there primarily for the conservation of life as its first design priority and secondly for the preservation of property in the event of a fire. To reduce damage to property and ensure the site is compliant with legislation as per the annual fire safety statement.

    • 4 – Maintaining Operations

Ensuring the site is compliant with legislation and has all essential services in good working as per the “annual fire safety statement”
The result of these considerations is reduced risk, and although, these are examples, you might visualize the difference between a proactive and vigilant building manager versus the building manager which is otherwise occupied

Work Place Health and Safety

This is the most important Risk management priority, our building manager should be conscientious from a moral perspective, and most of us are, but my point is that what we think is safe can, at times, not be as safe as it could be. The building manager needs to be mindful of the weakest opportunity which might be affected by an adverse incident.

The lawyers call it the “eggshell” (or something like that), it’s in the thinking that what might be considered appropriate for the majority of people, might not be safe for an individual that could be vulnerable.

Sub-contractor insurances

The sub-contractor needs a least two insurances, these are public liability and Work Cover.
We’re not going to go into the definitions of these insurances as we’re sure you already know, our point, to ensure smooth operations and minimal politics, ensure the sub-contractors are insured.
There is an important point here, read the insurance certificate of the sub-contractor!
If your contractor is, say, an electrician and they have insurance, they are generally covered for what their license allows them to do, but…. If your electrician is fixing the leaking tap, because he is there and thinks he knows what to do, and the water goes everywhere and damages your carpet; the electrician’s insurance will likely not cover this. The public liability generally is purchased for what the trade does under that license. Keep this in mind.


Risk management is, in the first instance, about building management being vigilant and proactive in responding to observations and documentation. Insurance is a part of risk management, are you aware of the parameters of your insurance policies? Is your current building management proactive and informative in terms of providing details of any risk in the properties you manage?