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News & opinion

15 AUG 2019

Forthcoming TDD Guidance Note addresses important lessons

The death of a young lady called Tahnie Martin, originally reported two and a half years ago when she was struck by a timber water tank cover blown off in high winds, has recently been covered again in UK media when the firm responsible for managing the property was fined £1.3m in court last month.

The tank enclosure which killed Ms Martin was later found to be poorly maintained – meaning that, tragically, the 29-year-old’s death could have been avoided. Shortly after the incident in 2017 the coroner reported to RICS on the facts of the case, addressing two specific areas of concern:

  • Although the managing agent was responsible for inspecting the property every six months and several planned preventative maintenance (PPM) surveys had recently been carried out on the property, none had identified the presence of the structures on the plant room roof. As a result, no maintenance had been planned for them.
  • The plant room roof was found to be difficult to access, and this was the main reason for the structures’ omission from the survey reports. However, none of the reports referred to this difficulty; neither did they indicate the need to inspect these areas or to comment on the possibility of risks.

To address these points and ensure that RICS guidance goes as far as possible to direct surveyors in the way such risks should be communicated, a team of experts was commissioned to write a new edition, soon to be published by RICS as the Technical due diligence of commercial property fifth edition global guidance note. In order to help reduce the potential for a such tragedy in future, the points specific to the case have been addressed by:

  • introducing a new, immediate time frame for reporting, so that on identifying a risk to health and safety during an inspection the surveyor is directed to notify an appropriate person of this as soon as practically possible
  • expanding the section on inaccessible areas, adding the requirement to state what significant areas were not inspected during a survey and report on the level of reasonably foreseeable risk as a result
  • reinforcing the importance of health and safety, life safety and fire safety throughout the document
  • cross-referencing the recently published RICS Surveying safely, second edition global guidance note.

It is vital that the death of Tahnie Martin reminds us of the importance of our work in ensuring a safe and secure built environment, and our duty as RICS members to act in the public interest.

There are important lessons to be learned here, and we urge you to support this initiative by thoroughly familiarising yourself with the new requirements when they are released and making fellow professionals aware of the revised guidance by all possible means.