QUICK GUIDE: AMENDMENT OF DEFINITION OF ‘CLIENT’ TO INCLUDE DOMESTIC HOMEOWNERS
Why are these changes happening?
- Improve worker safety – there have been 11 fatalities and many more serious injuries on domestic construction sites in the past three years. Construction workers are entitled to the highest standards of health and safety in their workplaces.
- Reduce shadow economy activity in construction – bringing significant benefits to the exchequer, the construction industry and the economy at large
- Avoid large fines for the taxpayer – Ireland faces infringement proceedings if we do not make these changes. Penalties on the taxpayer as well as legal costs could be very substantial.
- Reduce administrative burden – before the changes come into effect, the HSA will complete a review of the general construction regulations and changes will be made to ensure that the administrative and regulatory burden on all clients is reduced in so far as possible, while maintaining standards.
I am a domestic homeowner undertaking construction works – what new duties do I have?
The precise nature of the new obligations will be informed in part by the consultation process that is starting today. However based on current proposals, with effect from 1st June 2013, homeowners carrying out construction works will have met their duties if they follow three straightforward steps:
- Take reasonable steps to ensure that all designers and contractors are competent to carry out their tasks. This duty only applies in the case of appointments made by the homeowner him/herself, and not in the case of subcontractors. It can be fulfilled by asking a small number of straightforward questions. There is also a legal obligation on the contractors to demonstrate their competence to the homeowner.
- (Only in more complicated cases where the project involves two or more contractors, where there is a ‘particular risk’ (e.g. close to power lines/wells/tunnels) or where the project takes longer than 30 days). Appoint a ‘Project Supervisor Design Process (PSDP) and a ‘Project Supervisor Construction Stage’ (PSCS). Where the duty arises, in most cases the PSDP will be the architect/engineer and the PSCS will be the main contractor, and the duties to be carried out by the Project Supervisors for the most part involve tasks that they are performing already. Making the appointment will be a matter of asking a number of straightforward questions and completing an appointment form.
- Retain a safety file. The Project Supervisor Design Process will have an obligation to produce a safety file and give it to the homeowner at the end of the works. The homeowner will have a duty to retain the file and make it available to anybody carrying out works in future. Again, this duty only arises in more complicated construction projects where there are two or more contractors, more than 30 days duration and/or a ‘particular risk’.
A more detailed guide for homeowners, appointment form for Project Supervisors and checklists of questions to ask before making appointments are available on the HSA website www.hsa.ie .