Nigel Start writes that under the new Construction Safety Regulations, homeowners now have duties relating to contractor selection and the appointment of project supervisors for both design and construction stages
Civil

 

Author: Nigel Start, CEng, MIEI, CMIOSH, senior health & safety consultant, PM Group

New Irish Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, which are due to come into effect on 1 August 2013, are currently awaiting sign off by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. These have made a significant departure from earlier regulations, with homeowners now having duties relating to contractor selection and the appointment of project supervisors for both the design and construction stages of building works. Following project completion, they will also be required to retain a ‘safety file’ for reference during future construction works. These changes have been driven by a European Union directive, in an attempt to reduce fatalities on domestic construction sites. Over the last three years, there has sadly been 11 deaths relating to construction work in Ireland alone. In addition to the loss of life, a considerable number of construction workers have sustained serious injuries, leaving many with life-altering conditions that preclude them from returning to work. These injuries have not only have a huge personal impact on those directly involved, but they also mean that families and society must shoulder a massive burden. [login type=”readmore”] Typical examples of construction work which may fall within these regulations include:

  • Building a new house, extension or garage
  • Attic conversion
  • Re-slating a roof or
  • Installing solar panels.

These regulations will not affect persons performing DIY or who engage others on a non-paid basis to undertake construction or maintenance works. [login type=”readmore”] HOMEOWNER REQUIREMENTSHomeowners will also be required to check the competency of anyone employed to carry out both design and construction work and must allocate adequate resources to ensuring that it can be carried out in a safe manner. There is, however, a legal duty on the appointed persons to demonstrate to the homeowner that they are competent to carry out the work and to provide the necessary resources to do so safely. The homeowner’s ability and knowledge to assess the competency documentation provided by the designer or contractor will undoubtedly prove to be a significant issue. Without a broad perspective of what is deemed satisfactory, it is unlikely that homeowners will be in a position to adequately evaluate the documentation provided. It is likely that the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) will publish guidance information to support homeowners in meeting this requirement. There are some limitations on when project supervisors must be appointed by homeowners. The appointments are required when:

  • there is more than one contractor involved in the work,
  • there is a particular risk, or
  • the work is going to last more than 30 days (or 500 person days).

Hiring a block-layer for a few days to build a garden wall (with no particular risks present) will not require appointment of project supervisors; however, procuring an extension to the side of a house will. It should be noted that project supervisor appointments must be made in writing by the homeowner and accepted in writing by the contractor. The new requirement for the project supervisor for the design stage to issue a safety file for domestic projects may have future consequences for homeowners. They will need to retain and update the document (if necessary) to take account of any future modifications. And, if they wish to sell the property, legal complications may arise if they cannot provide the document to the purchaser. This has already proven to be an issue with both residential and commercial developments built since 1995 (when the first Irish Construction Safety Regulations came into operation), with owners often failing to recognise the statutory significance of the document. ENFORCEMENT Enforcement of the new regulations by the HSA will be challenging, with further cuts to staffing numbers announced recently by the Government. Numbers have already fallen from 184 down to 170, with a further reduction to 151 staff now required. This has resulted in a 9.8% fall in inspections in 2012, with a further reduction expected in 2013. With domestic projects now significantly outnumbering commercial projects, the new regulations could potentially more than double the existing construction division’s inspection workload. As it is likely that the rate of compliance will be driven by the prospect of a visit from the HSA, it will prove challenging for the Authority to reassign its limited resources to drive compliance in this area. It is likely that implementation of these new regulations will take time to become embedded in the small contracting culture, with the role of design professionals being pivotal in delivering awareness and understanding of both statutory obligations and project benefits. The greatest challenges will lie with projects which are delivered without professional guidance where homeowners may be unaware of their regulatory responsibilities. In addition to the new requirements for homeowners, the 2013 Construction Safety Regulations will incorporate the 2006 Construction Regulations amendments published between 2008 and 2012. The HSA’s website has further information including a checklist of questions that can be used to assist with fulfilling homeowners obligations. See www.hsa.ie for more details. Nigel Start CEng MIEI, CMIOSH is a both a chartered engineer and a chartered health and safety practitioner. Holding a degree in mechanical engineering and a diploma in safety, health and welfare at work, he has over 20 years’ experience of major construction projects and has held responsibility for both design and construction on safety on some of Ireland’s largest construction projects. These include pharmaceutical, manufacturing, chemical, gas and power generation. Start is currently chairman of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Ireland Eastern District and vice chair of IOSH Ireland.

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  Author: Nigel Start, CEng, MIEI, CMIOSH, senior health & safety consultant, PM Group New Irish Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, which are due to come into effect on 1 August 2013, are currently awaiting sign off by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. These...