Health and safety

Health and safety

Maintain your property

Regular checks are important – the ongoing maintenance of your home is essential to keep you, your family and visitors safe.

Keep an eye on your windows, retaining walls, pool fences and sewer lines, which can all pose potential problems due to ageing and general wear and tear. Check the stability of large trees on your property to prevent them from unexpectedly falling over or losing large branches.

Take extra care when renovating, particularly if demolition is involved. You could be liable for damage or injury caused by an accident on your property.

This section of the site has more information about other health and building issues in the local area such as:

Below is a summary of other common problems and how to avoid them.

Awnings

It is the responsibility of building owners to maintain awnings in a safe condition at all times including during winds and storms.

Owners should not permit the erection of signs (including real estate signs) on awnings or the placement of air-conditioning units on awnings over public land without approval.

Ageing awnings can collapse when:

  • anchor points and other structural elements fail
  • blocked gutters accelerate rust and wood rot and add weight to the structure
  • fixtures are not strong enough or fail to stay in place in high winds.

As problems aren't always obvious, we recommend that a structural engineer inspects your awnings regularly.

Balconies and railings

Balconies collapse when their structural elements age (or when they are overloaded). Structural elements include the joinery, decking, timber joists, and railings. These elements can fail because of poor design, wear and tear, wood rot and concrete 'cancer'.

Even if your balcony seems structurally stable it's a good idea not to overload it with too many people. Dancing on a balcony can be particularly dangerous.

Railings on balconies (and staircases) can become dangerous where the handrail or its fixing points decay or rust, and if balusters are removed. Serious accidents or death can occur where a handrail fails without warning.

We recommend that a structural engineer inspects your balconies, railings and handrails regularly.

Retaining walls and fences

Over time, retaining walls and fences can start to lean (and potentially fall) due to pressure from earth, water, trees and other structures. If your wall or fence is heading towards collapse, consult a structural engineer for advice.

Sewer lines

In many parts of inner Sydney the sewer lines are old terracotta pipes. Land movement and ageing can cause pipe sections to separate, crack or collapse. Raw sewage may seep out, damage property and pose a health risk to people and the environment.

Property owners are responsible for the sewer line running from their property to the mains and for any damage or injury if their part of the line leaks. We recommend property owners engage a licensed plumber to check the integrity and stability of sewer lines.

Trees

If your tree is dead or immediately dangerous you do not need the City's permission to remove it, however specific information must be supplied to the City. Find out more about removing dead or immediately dangerous trees.

Windows

Damaged or ageing windows can be very hazardous. Window panes can become detached and fall off onto footpaths and roads dangerously shattering glass that can cause cuts and eye injuries. To prevent this property owners should check windows regularly and make sure:

  • silicone base/putty beads and surrounds have not deteriorated, especially in multi-level buildings that are positioned close to boundaries
  • there are no cracks in the glass that could impact on the pane's load-carrying capacity
  • the surrounds are stable and not free moving, especially in older buildings where windows are held in place by hardwood plugs that deteriorate with time
  • shower screens and other glass panels are secure and not suffering from any visible fatigue.

Last updated: Monday, 2 December 2013