As of August of 2016 you as the client now have certain health and safety responsibilities under the Construction Regulations 2013. While contractors have always had their own set of health and safety obligations, as a homeowner you weren’t brought into the legal loop so to speak. Now you are, and responsibilities come with it.

Homeowners who are having construction work carried out now have to appoint competent persons. There is however also a duty on designers, contractors and Project Supervisors to demonstrate to you the client that they are competent to carry out the work.

For projects that involve more than one contractor or are scheduled to last longer than 30 days or involve a particular risk, the homeowner must appoint Project Supervisors for the Design Process (PSDP) and for the Construction Stage (PSCS). These two roles can be fulfilled by the same person, or even the homeowner themselves, but only if they are competent to do so. The client must also notify the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) when the project is scheduled to last longer than 30 days.

By acting as PSCS on your project (which you are most likely to do if you go down the direct labour route), you will have additional duties mainly focused on co-ordinating and organising the works of the different contractors involved. Certain safety documentation will need to be produced also including a Safety & Health Plan as well as gathering information from the contractors used, such as safety statements and training records. The PSCS controls key safety decisions on site and failure to discharge this role could lead to serious, even fatal accidents. The role of PSCS has always existed but it used to only really apply to commercial projects.

The HSA has produced guidance for homeowners and for contractors/project supervisors involved in small domestic projects. This is available for free at www.hsa.ie

There’s a second piece of legislation that readers of SelfBuild & Improve Your Home will be familiar with and that’s the Building Control Act, which has finally been passed! It will take effect on March 1st 2014 and will require you to submit compliance drawings to your local authority, get an inspection plan drawn up by an engineer/architect/building surveyor, and get certificates of compliance drawn up and signed before (by the designer), and after, (by the builder and certifier), completion of the build.

While these measures are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, as with the new health and safety legislation the homeowners will be the ones to pay (directly or indirectly), for all of this compliance documentation to be put together, adding to the cost of building and improving. Also, unlike in NI where Building Control takes on this certification role, conflicts of interest could arise as the client effectively pays the certifier! That said, it is in the certifier’s interest to protect the homeowner and let them know when work is done incorrectly as they are liable for what they certify.

In his press release about the new legislation, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan flagged the issue of insurance. As was made evident with the pyrite problem in Dublin, your builder having insurance doesn’t guarantee that the failures are paid for when something goes wrong! He has therefore pledged to look at this problem in the coming months, before the Building Control Act is brought into force next year.

Long-term he also wants to establish a statutory register of builders, presumably along the lines of what exists for gas installers and electricians. He also said he’s commissioned a report on how the register of architects is being administered. As covered previously in SelfBuild & Improve Your Home, only RIAI registered architects are automatically added to the register while practically trained architects have to go through a costly and lengthy process in order to be vetted.