New Building Safety Rules for UK Homeowners

New Building Safety Rules for UK Homeowners

31st March 2015

The new Construction, Design and Management (CDM) regulations which come into force on the 6th April, 2015 may affect the sale of a property if any renovation or other work is undertaken by a builder who does not comply with this legislation.  The CDM regulations are designed to reduce the number of accidents and injuries on construction projects and there are specific legal requirements regarding site safety standards that cover work, including work carried out for homeowners who live in the property after the work has been completed. 

The legislation has been brought about because it’s now recognised that most people who are badly injured or killed at work are not those working on larger construction sites.  This has led to a shift of focus onto smaller building projects, including those which fall within the domestic sector.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commissioned a report last year that revealed that few home owners take safety into consideration when they choose a contractor to work on their property.

The new CDM regs require that from 6th April, all building companies (whatever their size) working in the domestic sector will need to create a construction phase safety plan for every project.  Moreover, all domestic projects will need to meet the same basic standards for the provision of welfare facilities as do commercial projects. 

Every domestic project finishing after April 6th that have involved more than one contractor must have a health and safety file presented at the end of the project.  This is, in effect, a handover pack that should include “as built” drawings or specifications of components that were installed.  This is likely to be requested by conveyancing solicitors when the property is put up for sale.

CDM duties are the responsibility of the contractor or, if there are more than one contractor, they will be the responsibility of the principal contractor.  IN cases where there are more than one contractor, then a principal designer must be appointed to coordinate all matters relating to health and safety.  If the principal designer changes or is not engaged to the end of the project, the responsibility for the file will be passed on to the principal contractor who will then be responsible for operational site safety and ensuring that the principal designer has the health and safety file.

This new legislation is likely to result in the HSE visiting home improvement/refurbishment sites on a routine basis.  The focus on the provision of welfare facilities and safe working practices will be in the spotlight during these visits.  Home owners who make it difficult for the contractor or designer to comply are likely to be held responsible in the event of an accident or injury.

With unlimited fines and the prospect of prison time for offences that lead to death or significant harm, homeowners will need to be careful when choosing contractors to work on their property and should ensure that there is a health and safety file.