In 2013, a set of guidelines was released by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to inform and assist homeowners on their Health and Safety obligations during a home improvement project.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought we would revisit these guidelines to remind homeowners and tradesmen alike of their responsibilities and the types of construction and repair jobs which require qualified professionals. The guidelines are not applicable to do-it-yourself jobs.
The guidelines are designed to work along-side Construction Regulations, which apply to trade professionals in accordance with Irish Law.
The types of construction work the regulations cover include:
- House extensions including attic and garage conversions
- Kitchen renovations
- Roof replacement or repair
- Installing solar panels
- Re-wiring your home
For jobs longer than 30 days, the guidelines require that a qualified project supervisor be appointed to oversee and co-ordinate on-site safety.
The regulations determine that a homeowner must have;
- Qualified people doing the work;
- A project supervisor, supervising the project (if longer than 30 days);
- An updated health and safety file on site.
You must also let the Health and Safety Authority know if the project is longer than 30 days or more than 500 person-days (person-days mean the number of days the work takes multiplied by the number of people doing the work).
How do I know if my tradesman is competent to do the work?
The law states that trade professionals you hire must demonstrate they are competent to carry out the work and have the resources necessary to do the work safely.
To determine competency, here are a few examples of questions to ask your trade professional before you hire:
Have you previously completed similar jobs and are there references I can chat with?
Reputable trade professionals will be happy to show you work completed and provide you with a reference for jobs, which you can call or visit.
Can you provide evidence of your training?
Credentials can be in the form of a higher learning certificate, a FAS National Craft ID card or regulatory bodies across specific trades e.g. Gas, Electrical also provide certification– for more details on tradesmen qualifications visit our Tradesmen Guide here.
May I see your Public Liability Insurance Cert?
A valid certificate of Public Liability Insurance will ensure that your trade professional can cover can personal injuries arising from work carried out in your home – if they don’t have this coverage then the homeowner could be held liable.
Do you have a Safe Pass?
Safe Pass training is a requirement in Ireland for construction and small building contractors. It is a one-day training programme renewed every 4 years which enforces best practices to avoid risk to both the worker and to others onsite.
All Onlinetradesmen members have been verified and either hold an industry-recognised qualification or are registered with a relevant regulatory body before they can join our service.
Is a Construction or Project Supervisor necessary for my home improvement project?
The need to appoint a supervisor for your job will be required when:
- There is more than one trade professional required for the job, or;
- Work is going to exceed more than 30 days or 500 person-days, or;
- There is a particular risk – such as work near power lines, installing heavy steel beams, dangerous substances like asbestos or deep excavation.
If your job covers all three points above, then you will need to appoint a project supervisor for the design as well as for construction however, these two roles can be done by the same person as long as they have the following:
- Recognised qualification in design or architecture;
- All workers including the Construction Supervisor hold SafePass training;
- Is a member of a professional body such as Construction Industry Federation, Association of Consulting Engineers, Royal Institute of Architects or Chartered Institute of Building.
Keeping a safety file will also be required during your construction project. This will be required to demonstrate the building's safety and structure as well as a record or work for future projects or to pass on when you sell the property.
If your project is going to be 30 days or 500 person-days long, then you must also complete a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) AF1 Form and return by registered post or by email to The Health and Safety Authority, James Joyce Street Dublin 1.
It is important to note the following:
- Homeowner guidance produced by the HSA are legal duties and failure for a homeowner to comply would be deemed an offence.
- HSA officers have been known to do random site inspections and will have the authority to stop work if the site is not in compliance with Health and Safety standards.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 during your construction project.
At the time of writing, the HSA had not updated their homeowner's construction guidance to reflect the evolving risk of COVID-19 spread.
However, it stands to reason that while the pandemic exists it is not only important to discuss safety with your appointed supervisor but to also conduct a job hazard analysis in relation to COVID-19, especially how it could impact work activities relating to close contact between workers, suppliers and potentially other members of the family.
Common sense health and safety precautions should now also include:
- Avoiding physical contact and maintaining a working distance of at least 2 metres from others working on-site or providing PPE gear where working conditions don’t allow physical distancing.
- Provide areas where regular handwashing with soap and water is possible or if running water is not available, providing alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitiser.
- Ensure that shared spaces indoors have good airflow, such as opened windows, vents and fans.
- Regularly sanitising all surfaces workers touch.
- Encouraging trade professionals working on-site to avoid public transport or carpools.
- Emphasise the importance of workers not touching their own faces (mouth, nose, eyes) and cover coughing and sneezing into the shoulder or tissues and staying home when sick.
- Regular cleaning and disinfecting of job site toilets and filling hand sanitiser dispensers regularly. Disinfect frequently touched items i.e., door pulls and toilet seats.
The project supervisor should encourage these practices, before the job starts and during the construction project.
Finally, if you think that your construction site is unsafe, be sure to discuss your concerns with your builder, architect or project supervisor. If you have further questions or concerns in relation to construction safety, then contact www.hsa.ie.