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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How to know a good building contractor

One of the most important decisions you are likely to make when undertaking a building project of any size is that of employing the services of a building contractor or property professionals such as electricians, plumbers, gas engineers, etc.

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Before making the all-important decision of awarding the contract to a specific builder or professional, it would not be unreasonable to as to see work on which they are currently engaged or recently done. Seeing at first hand and speaking to the client on how they treat the client’s property and how they work will give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to employ them.

Below are some tell-tale signs of good building practice and responsible behaviour:

  • vehicles associated with the site are parked sensibly
  • the site on first appearance is clean, tidy and organised
  • roads and pavements are not damaged or muddy
  • where appropriate, suitable fencing is available
  • the site facilities are appropriate for the project
  • workers’ appearance is in keeping with a professional outfitSee the source image
  • equipment is clean and in good order
  • no trailing leads are evident, except in close proximity to the work
  • standard of work appears to be good
  • workers are polite
  • noise levels are acceptable (no loud radios)
  • security and health & safety signs are evident, ie visitors to report to site office, there are warning signs for pedestrians that construction work is in progress, standard health & safety signs.
  • workers are wearing Personal Protection Equipment
  • the company vehicles are well presented
  • a company sign is on display
  • where appropriate, material is neatly stacked and protected

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TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Building Project: The 4 major Health and Safety signs you must know

When undertaking a building project you must comply with Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. Safety signs and signals are required where, despite putting in place all other relevant measures, a significant risk to the health and safety of employees and others remains.

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Safety signs are in place to alert employees, customers and visitors to the risks and, where appropriate, show safe practice. Safety signs are used in a range of environments, for example traffic signs in the workplace to regulate road traffic, safety signs to identify hazards or safety signs to indicate where fire exits and fire extinguishers are.

The 4 major Health and safety signs are;

  1. Safety Condition signs (Green and White) – giving you information that is only about safety action, location of safety equipment, safety facility or escape route. Safe condition signs generally use a white safety symbol on a green background.
  2. Warning signs (Yellow and white) – alerting you to hazards or danger indicate when there are potential  safety risks or dangerous situations that require attention to anyone who is on the premises in order to protect themselves. They are highly visible and colour coded to make them easier to understand, warning signs are yellow.
  3. Mandatory signs (Blue and White) – meaning you must do something and is depicted by a blue circle with a white pictogram. They inform employees and visitors that a certain course of action must be taken; such as wearing PPE, sounding horn and washing hands. Below are our most popular ISO compliant mandatory symbols. Wear eye protection.
  4. Prohibition signs (Red and white) – meaning you must not do something such as a behaviour / action likely to cause a risk to health or safety. Prohibition signs are required to be red circle with a red diagonal line through it (running from top left to bottom right)

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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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Safety at Home: Children’s Room

In addition to ensuring that individual items are safe, it’s important to take an overall approach to safety in your child’s room.

The safety precautions that you take will depend upon the age of your children and your judgement of how sensible they are.  Bear in mind that the only thing you can predict about children is they’re unpredictable.

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Below are safety tips you can use to ensure your children’s room are safe;

  • Floors should be non-slip and not too hard underfoot.
  • Avoid placing floor or table lamps where they could get in the way of games, consoles and gadgets and be knocked over.
  • Use the current wattage of bulb in lamps and ensure that there are no  trailing flexes.
  • Make sure shelves are firmly fixed to the wall. Children will inevitably climb up them when trying to reach something.
  • Fasten any heavy, free-standing furniture that could be pulled over securely to the wall or floor. See the source image
  • Check electrical items regularly for fraying wires or other obvious faults and never overload a plug socket.
  • If the room is above the ground floor, ensure that windows can’t be opened far enough to climb out of ( though you should be able to exit them easily in an emergency) and don’t put anything under the windows that can be climbed upon.
  • Any glass at low level (in doors for example) should be safety glass or, at least, covered with shatter-resistant film.

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TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk