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The burden of responsibility by Roman Egger

The management of a building or complex inevitably involves risk for both people and the environment. Property operators are therefore bound by law to identify potential dangers and take any measures necessary to guarantee smooth running. But the fact that laws differ from one place to another combined with the sheer volume of rules and regulations make the responsibility for operating a building extremely complicated.

A technical defect in a supermarket chain, for example, automatically raises issues regarding the operator's duty of care, such as:  Who serviced the system? Was this person suitably trained and qualified? etc. A relatively harmless case like this one can raise a whole number of different questions for the operator.

A whole bunch of standards and regulations

The operator's responsibility as defined by law affects many areas relating to individual properties or even entire portfolios. These include, among other things: the organizational structure, processes and working procedures; the identification and minimization of potential risks for the core business; legislation in the form of standards, regulations or statutory requirements; the training and qualifications of employees responsible for operating and servicing the systems. However, current legislation relating to the operator's duties and obligations in Switzerland is very involved. If you want an overall view, you'll need to work hard and have the necessary professional expertise in all the disciplines involved.

A question of organizational development

The operator's responsibility revolves mainly around management operations. The aim here must be to take all the reasonably acceptable measures needed to avoid or minimize risks for people, property and the environment. The operator's duty comprises several different factors that affect the organization as a whole. By identifying and defining the operator's responsibilities, we create a navigation system that enables us to satisfy the legal and organizational parameters.

Overall view of the processes

The methods used to define legal responsibility embrace several secondary areas. To decide which processes and tasks take priority, we need to take an overall view of the procedures involved. We approach this in several stages:

  1. Status quo analysis and identification of basic data within the organization
  2. Planning and operative implementation
  3. Documentation and training

Further steps towards optimization might well include:

  1. Conducting risk analyses
  2. Drawing up risk priority figures
  3. Identifying possible approaches to risk minimization
  4. Writing operating concepts or manuals

Only the systematic implementation of tasks for owners, operators, the organization and individual employees offers effective and necessary protection against sanctions and other unpleasant surprises.


(A long version of the article can be found on page 102, Komplex 2017)