Health and safety law change for all home improvements ‘could affect sales’

Agents should be aware of a ‘health and safety’ change in law that kicks in on Monday that will affect all building work carried out in the domestic sector, including all owner-occupied and private rented homes.

From next week, for health and safety purposes, domestic projects will be treated in the same way as large new housing developments or the construction of shopping centres or office blocks.

Homes which will be going up for sale after Easter and which are having ongoing work done on them could also be caught if the work finishes after Monday.

Failure to comply with the regulations could jeopardise future transactions if the vendor cannot produce the required paperwork – a health and safety file.

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 will, from April 6, affect all domestic projects for the first time.

CDM is a piece of legislation that aims to reduce accidents during construction projects via good design, planning and co-operation from concept to completion and ultimately decommissioning.

It also specifies legal requirements on site safety standards and for the provision of welfare facilities such as access to toilets.

Louise Hosking, managing director at health and safety consultancy Hosking Associates, said: “Of the 43 people who died on construction sites last year, three-quarters were working on smaller projects.

“The new CDM15 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 – architects, engineers, builders and the home owner – work together to meet the new standards.

“The Health & Safety Executive 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: “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.

“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.”

Important points for property owners:

  • From April 6, all builders, whatever their size, working in the domestic sector, will have to create a construction phase safety plan for all building projects.
  • 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 April 6, where there has been more than one contractor, must have a health and safety file presented at the end.
  • The health and safety file is a handover pack, which 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 to 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.
  • 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.
  • The principal contractor is responsible for operational site safety and passing information to the principal designer for the health and safety file.
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