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Brief Guide for Homeowners on Getting Construction Work Done Safely

Home renovation projects can transform your living space, but they also bring responsibilities, especially when it comes to safety. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) emphasises the importance of homeowners understanding their duties under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013. This guide aims to clarify what constitutes construction work, outline the type of work covered by the regulations, and provide a clear path for homeowners to ensure their construction projects are carried out safely.

Understanding Construction Work

Construction work is a broad term that encompasses various activities related to building and renovation. According to the HSA, examples of construction work that fall under the regulations include, but are not limited to:

  • Building new structures (houses, extensions, porches, garages)
  • Converting attics
  • Refitting kitchens
  • Re-slating roofs
  • Installing solar panels or skylights
  • Re-wiring houses

It’s important to note that routine DIY tasks, gardening work, and general maintenance of appliances and boilers are not considered construction work under these regulations.

Your Responsibilities as a Homeowner

When embarking on a construction project, you have legal obligations to ensure the work is done safely. These include:

  1. Determining the Competency of Contractors: Verify that any person you hire for design or construction is competent and has allocated the necessary resources (including time and equipment) to complete the work safely.
  2. Appointing Project Supervisors: If your project involves more than one contractor, has particular risks, or is expected to last more than 30 days or requires more than 500 person days, you must appoint project supervisors for both the design and construction phases.
  3. Maintaining a Safety File: Keep a safety file for the construction work, documenting all safety and health measures.
  4. Notifying the HSA: If the project is expected to exceed 30 days or more than 500 person days, inform the HSA.

Assessing Contractor Competency

Determining a contractor’s competency is crucial. The HSA provides a Competency Checklist to aid in this process. Contractors must demonstrate their competency and resource allocation to work safely. This assessment is a critical step in safeguarding everyone involved in the project.

Appointing Project Supervisors

The requirement to appoint project supervisors depends on the complexity and risks associated with your project. For simple tasks involving a single contractor without significant risks, a project supervisor may not be necessary. However, for more complex projects, especially those involving multiple contractors or specific risks (e.g., work at height, proximity to high voltage lines, or asbestos work), appointing competent project supervisors for both design and construction is a legal requirement.

  • Example 1 (No Project Supervisors Needed): Hiring a bricklayer for a simple wall construction in your garden.
  • Example 2 (Project Supervisors Needed): Undertaking a significant home extension with multiple contractors and specific risks.