An Overview of Health and Safety Legislation For Self-Builds

If you are considering a self-build, the safety of everybody involved is paramount. As such, you will need to understand all of the relevant legislation.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the organisation responsible for reducing work-related death, injury and ill health, around a third of all workplace fatalities occur on a construction site. Many thousands more are injured each year due to accidents, and poor management and planning.

We aren’t Health and Safety experts but we know how important it is to you that you understand your responsibilities when constructing a new property. And so that’s why we are looking to provide you with useful information so that you can identify the experts you need to talk to in an effort to be fully prepared for a self-build.

In 2015, the Construction, Design & Management (CDM) regulation covering health and safety provision when building a house was revised (read more about the CDM regulation here). From 2015, homeowners carrying out building work are subject to the same health and safety laws as any building site around the country. The main thing to remember is that for all domestic building projects involving structural work, someone will have to take responsibility for meeting the Construction, Design & Management (CDM) regulations.

What is Construction Design & Management (CDM)?

According to the HSE1, CDM aims to improve health and safety in the industry by helping to:

  • sensibly plan the work so the risks involved are managed from start to finish
  • have the right people for the job present at the right time
  • co-operate and co-ordinate your work with others
  • have the right information about the risks and how they are being managed
  • communicate this information effectively to those who need to know
  • consult and engage with workers about the risks and how they are being managed

The CDM regulations mean that health and safety legislation now applies to domestic building projects. Self and custom builders are now responsible for their own safety when working on their own projects.

This is where it can get confusing.

The responsibilities divide into three categories:

  • The client
  • The designers
  • The contractors

Let’s take a quick look at the three different roles2.

The role of Clients

There are two different types of client, according to the new regulations.

Clients

A client can either be an organisation or an individual for whom a construction project is carried out. The client is responsible for making the arrangements for managing the project, which includes appointing people who are adequately skilled to perform the build, and ensuring that there are adequate time and resources available for the job.

Domestic Clients

These are people who have work done on their homes that is not part of a business transaction. It does not matter whether the build is for profit or their own residential use.

Types of Designers

Designers

The definition of a designer is someone who is part of a business and prepares or modifies designs for a build, product or system relating to construction work.

Principal Designers

A principal designer is appointed by the client when more than one contractor is involved. This could be a specialist company or an individual with adequate expertise to carry out the role.

Contractors

There are three different types of contractor you need to be aware of: a principal contractor, a contractor and someone employed by either of these two.

Principal contractor

The principal contractor is appointed by the client to co-ordinate the construction phase of the project, and is only required when more than one contractor is involved.

Contractors

Contractors are responsible for building the house. They can be individuals or a company, and are responsible for the work under their direct control (for example the carpentry or the electrical work).

Finally, ‘workers’ are people who are under the control of the contractors on a construction site. They must take care of their own health and safety and others who might be affected by their work.

What happens if I don’t follow and comply with the CDM regulations2?

Breaching health and safety legislation when building your own home could mean that construction work might need to be stopped by the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority. Further work on the project might be needed to fix any problems. Most importantly, in serious cases you may be liable for prosecution.

Where to go for more information

This overview is an introduction to the framework of health and safety regulation and we hope it gives you some familiarity with it. However, if you are thinking of a self-build project you must seek help from a qualified professional to make sure you have all the information you need to make the right decision. An expert will be able to let you know if you are in a position to manage self-build projects on your own, or whether you need to speak to anyone else to obtain the right expertise and knowledge.

The following websites will be able to provide more information:

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