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Key Hazards in the Real Estate Sector

It’s not unheard of for Real Estate Agents to be threatened and assaulted in the course of their normal work activity. There have been reports of assaults during property inspections and recently in NSW and Victoria agents were murdered. Anecdotal information suggests that assault and rape occur within the real estate industry but are often unreported. Incidents, such as a fall or the onset of a medical condition, also have the potential to leave agents without necessary emergency assistance.

With real estate agency team roles being both office-based and out in the field, planning for the safety of your team members in this sector is certainly less than straight forward.

Obviously the hazards in the office-based environment are more well known and easier to plan for and respond to. However, planning for every potential hazard those out in the field may encounter is a much more daunting task knowing they’re often alone on private properties, and showing properties to complete strangers.

What action is required?
These days most business owners know that it is a requirement under the WHS Act 2011 to actively stay abreast of legislative requirements and changes, and to provide team members with adequate training, supervision and consultation across relevant WHS issues. And sure, in the larger real estate offices, where there is a dedicated human resources department responsible for creating and updating safety procedures so all employees are safe at all times, managing all this is not a problem. However, those of you who run smaller establishments don’t have that luxury and the fines for not complying will hit harder than it will the bigger players.

So for those of you in this latter group, here’s a list of hazards you should have safety plans in place for. Now this is by no means an exhaustive list and focusses on the physical, so contact us if you feel your WHS management plans may be lacking and we can assist further.

Potential Hazards - In the office:

  • slips, trips, falls
  • lighting
  • ventilation
  • exposed wiring/electrical
  • temperature
  • ergonomic desk design
  • access to cash and keys

Solution 1: Develop an office WHS inspection checklist that is uniquely tailored to your workplace and covers the above list at the very least

Solution 2: Assign a team member with responsibility for conducting the inspections regularly and reporting to senior management immediately on any hazards so an assessment can be made and plans to eliminate or minimise the risk can be put in place.

Potential Hazards - Out of office:
  • car breakdown
  • vicious dogs
  • electrical hazards
  • chemicals
  • pools
  • slips, trips, falls
  • aggressive or violent behaviour by a prospective buyer or renter
  • onset of a medical condition

Solution 1: Develop and document safe work procedures and response plans for all identified hazards

Solution 2: Provide information, equipment and training for all team members in safe work procedures and response plans

Solution 3: Develop and use a Property WHS inspection checklist that covers the above list at the very least

Everyone is responsible
Ensure your team members are aware that they too bare responsibility for their own safety and that of their fellow team members. This awareness should begin at the recruitment stage, follow through to the onboarding processes and be maintained throughout their employment.

Some other suggestions that may minimise the risks:

  • limiting personal advertising, for example listing personal phone numbers or home addresses as research shows this increases the risk of criminal intent
  • Have team members work in pairs
  • Limit the amount of personal information team members make public
  • Conduct regular maintenance on vehicles

No WHS expert on your team?
If you do not have a HR practitioner or team dedicated to WHS matters across your business, then I implore you to at the very least take action on the above and contact us for further advice on WHS compliance matters. We can conduct a full WHS audit of your premises and safe working practices and advise where they may be falling short of your legal obligations under the Act. We also advise on the most viable options available for small business to become fully compliant and will even manage implementation if that’s needed too. If it’s peace of mind you’re needing, then HR Tactics can help.

This article written by:
Jackie Strachan
HR Tactics