Does Health & Safety at work apply to my domestic building project?

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.

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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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What is Practical Completion in the building industry

The term ‘Practical Completion’ is a term use in the building industry at the end of a building project which is often open to interpretation. The issue of whether a building project has achieved practical completion has long been the source of many disputes within the building industry, both in the commercial sector and, in particular, the domestic sector.

Many standard form of Contract that are used in the building industry rely upon the issue of a Certificate of Practical Completion to trigger the release of funds at every completed stage or end of the project.

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Given the importance, the standard forms used throughout the industry do not define practical completion. They generally leave the matter to the discretion of the client, contract administrator, architect, engineer, supervising officer, etc. The Preparation of a comprehensive specification/scope of works is paramount to minimising the risks of misinterpretation, although the risks will never be fully removed.

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Practical completion of any part of the work should be seen as the work having been completed to a ‘set’ standard where the client can take possession of the works and use then as intended. It is important for both parties (client and contractor) to use common sense when agreeing on practical completion. On the one hand the contractor or builder should make every effort to complete the work to a satisfactory standard, and on the other the client should exercise some discretion on the finished product. That is not to say that poor standards should be accepted, but that some materials, such as bricks, timber, etc., can vary in colour or dimensions.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Building Project: The 5 Risk Assessment stages you must know

This Building Industry Risk Assessment contains about 43 task specific risk assessments covering a variety of activities undertaken on building sites. The risk assessments range from unloading the delivery lorries to bricklaying, plastering and painting.

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The use of  Risk Assessment (Task Specific Risk Assessment Forms) is an important exercise that not only helps you to make the workplace safer for yourself, your workers and eliminate accidents, but also assists you in complying with the relevant health and safety legislation, save money  and the internment. By using a systematic method of looking at your work activities and assessing what could go wrong you will go a long way to ensuring your safety and the safety of your employees on site. If you use a contractor they will be asked to provide risk assessments before starting work. Risk Assessment, when properly down, will show the relevant authority (HSE) that you are serious about managing health and safety on site.

If you are new to carrying out risk assessments you may find it useful to use the 5 Risk Assessment stages below and there are templates Task Specific Risk Assessment Forms available to buy and use.

5 stages of Risk Assessment

  1.  Identify the hazards
  2. Identify the people at risk
  3. Evaluate the risks and plan
  4. Record plan and train
  5. Periodically review

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Property owner fined £260k by HSE for worker falling from height

Sir Robert McAlpine has been fined £260,000 after a worker fell 4.8m through an unprotected opening at a property owned by a director of the firm.

Mark Smith, 36, was attaching straps to a water tank so it could be moved in order to paint flooring at Stone Gappe Hall in Bradford, which is owned by group director Richard McAlpine, when the incident occurred.

Smith was hospitalised for nine days after fracturing his leg, ankle, kneecap, eye socket and nose, cutting his face, injuring his ribs and sustaining a concussion.

He continues to suffer from the psychological effect of the incident and has not been able to return to work since, according to a statement by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

An HSE investigation found that he fell through an opening that did not have fixed-edge protection.

Sir Robert McAlpine of Eaton Court, Maylands Avenue, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

The company was fined £260,000 and ordered to pay £38,299 in costs.

HSE inspector Paul Thompson said: “Falls from height often result in life-changing or fatal injuries. In most cases, these incidents are needless and could be prevented by properly planning of the work to ensure that effective preventative and protective measures are in place such as edge protection or barriers built to the correct standard.

“This incident could have easily been prevented if the company had undertaken a thorough risk assessment and installed adequate edge protection around the opening to prevent falls.”

Source: Construction News

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Bank of England launches climate change stress test

The Bank of England has launched one of the most ambitious attempts to date to quantify the risk that climate change poses to the financial system.

Banks and insurers will face climate stress tests in a similar way to the financial stress tests they already do.

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It is a project that could ultimately result in banks and insurers having to hold more capital to do certain kinds of business.

And that could have profound effects on the way the economy is funded.

Bank officials told journalists that the value of every asset on the face of the planet will be affected by climate change. Where values change, there is financial risk and the bank wants to measure it – and then manage it.

Large banks and insurance groups will be asked to go through their balance sheets almost asset by asset to assess the risks posed by a range of climate scenarios.

The Bank of England recognises there are two types of financial risk posed by climate change. There are physical risks arising from weather related events – floods, droughts, fire, etc.

And then there are what it describes as transition risks. Things that happen as a result of adjusting to a low carbon economy – meat becoming more expensive, costs incurred in the mandatory insulation of homes.

Source: BBC News

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Safety at Home: Carbon monoxide kills

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless, non-irritant gas, killing 50 people each year in the UK and making hundreds more seriously ill.

CO poisoning occurs when gas-fired appliances such as boilers, cookers and fires are not operating correctly. With research indicating that nearly a quarter of UK homes have one or more defective gas appliance, it is vital your appliances are checked regularly.

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If your boiler is more than 10 years old or has been infrequently serviced in the past, you really should get it checked by a Gas safe registered engineer. Fitting a European standard certified audible carbon monoxide alarm is a vital second line of defence after having  your appliances safety checked. It is essential that your alarm is marked with the EN50291 safety standard and with the CE mark.

Vital signs and symptoms to look out for CO poisoning include:

  • Sooting and staining on or around your gas boiler or other gas appliances.
  • Excessive condensation in the room where an appliance is installed.
  • A lazy, yellow-orange gas flame instead of blue.
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea and can be mistaken for flu, a virus and even food poisoning.
  • Breathlessness
  • Lost of consciousness

For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning visit http://www.hse.gov.uk

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