Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have statutory obligations to adhere to, based on Common Law principles. The effect of the Act has been to bring ALL people at work (and others) under the protection of the law. The Act covers all employment activities and applies to employers, self-employed persons, sub-contractors, visitors to places of employment, employees, directors and managers, members of the public, designers, suppliers, etc. It also provides the HSE with various enforcement powers.
Whether you are overseeing the project yourself or employing a builder or contractor to carry out the work, understanding the importance of safety, health and welfare is very important. There are grey areas of health & safety regarding projects that are undertaken by homeowners themselves. Whereas the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 encompasses all work carried out by professionals during their daily activities, homeowners who are undertaking the work themselves are not covered by it. However, there is a moral duty of care by the homeowner to any person who has contact with the building project. This means any person who has contact with the project has a right under health & safety law to be protected from danger.
If you are going to employ the service of a professional to carry out any elements of the work for example electrician or gas engineer, they should have public liability insurance and qualified to work to good building practices. All appropriate measures should be taken to remove or reduce the risks of accident or incidents, by introducing methods of controlling the risk. It is important to satisfy yourself (as far as is reasonable) that the professionals you employ are qualified and competent to carry out the work in a safe manner.
If you are responsible for a building project site and a person is injured due to negligence on your part, legal action could be taken against you. If you are in any doubt as to where you stand with regard to health & safety, or if you require any advice or information, visit the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk
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