UK home owners should be aware of new building safety rules


New Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations due to come into force in the UK next month could affect the sale of a property if any renovation or other work is carried out by a builder who does not comply with the rules.

The CDM legislation which to reduce accidents during construction projects also specifies legal requirements on site safety standards that cover work including that carried out for home owners who live in the property after work has been completed.

Louise Hosking, managing director of health and safety environmental specialists Hosking Associates, pointed out that the legislation recognises that large construction sites are no longer where most people are being badly injured or killed, and as a result focus is shifting to smaller projects including those within the domestic sector.

‘The way a building project is organised can reduce risks to workers significantly. It is imperative that everyone involved including architects, engineers, builders and the homeowner, work together to meet the new standards,’ she said.

She also pointed out that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commissioned a report last year that showed very few home owners consider safety when they choose their contractor and this may have to change.

‘For some projects a health and safety file, which outlines how the work was undertaken and what was installed, will be required at the end of the work and if this isn’t provided it could affect the future sale of the property,’ she added.

Under the rules, from 06 April all builders, whatever their size, working in the domestic sector, will have to create a construction phase safety plan for all building projects and all domestic projects will have to meet the same basic standards for the provision of welfare facilities as commercial projects.

Any domestic projects finishing after 06 April where there has been more than one contractor must have a health and safety file presented at the end which is in effect a handover pack that should include ‘as built’ drawings or specifications of components that have been installed. Conveyancing solicitors are likely to request this when property is bought and sold.

For home owners, CDM duties are passed to the contractor where there is only one or the principal contractor for more than one.  Where there is more than one contractor, a principal designer must also be appointed and they coordinate all matters relating to health and safety.

Also, if the principal designer changes or is not engaged to the end, the responsibility for the file moves on and may rest finally with the principal contractor and the principal contractor is responsible for operational site safety and passing information to the principal designer for the health and safety file.

‘I would anticipate the HSE will start visiting home improvement sites more routinely and it will probably focus on the provision of welfare facilities and safe working practices initially. If home owners make it very difficult for their contractor or designer to comply, they could become responsible if this leads to an accident,’ said Hosking.

‘Health and safety offences that lead to death or significant personal harm can result in unlimited fines and imprisonment for those who made decisions or failed to make the decisions that led to this. Home owners should therefore choose their contractors wisely, and push for the health and safety file,’ she added.

According to Billy Heyman, managing director of South West London building and refurbishment company BTL Property, the CDM regulations will hopefully help improve health and safety standards on private domestic building projects which is where the majority of construction workers are employed in the UK.

‘It is very important that the new standards are properly enforced, or pressure will be put on previously responsible builders who may become unable to compete with those builders prepared to cut corners. Irresponsible builders can probably save anywhere between 5% and 20% by not operating safely,’ he explained.

‘Examples of where corners can be cut include sites not having sufficient scaffolding, not providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), using untrained workers and not producing a site specific Construction Phase Plan. The last thing we want to see is an increase in unscrupulous builders as a result of increasing red tape and slightly higher costs,’ he added.

Property news by Property Wire


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