Self-building a new home or extension can be an exciting and rewarding process. It gives a self-builder the opportunity to create a customised space from start to finish.
Self-build homes can be environmentally friendly, often have innovative designs and may cost less than standard housing when you build your own house. However, construction is one of the most dangerous sectors in the UK and it poses a number of risks for self-builders – including serious injuries.
Based on your knowledge and skill level in construction work, you need to decide whether you are going to selfbuild as a do-it-yourself project or hire workers, contractors and subcontractors to help. In addition, you may need to follow certain health and safety regulations – factors such as directly employing workers, managing the project yourself and intending to sell the property at completion will determine whether the regulations will apply to you.
The Health and Safety Laws
Two of the most important health and safety laws for construction are the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM Regulations).
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 lays out general workplace health and safety principles for employers, employees and the self-employed. It places a duty on employers to assess and reduce the severity of risks in the workplace as much as is reasonable and practical. Employers must abide by all relevant health and safety regulations, including the following:
• The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
• The Work at Height Regulations 2005
• Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
• The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981
Whether health and safety legislation apply when you build your own house or not, it is important to make sure you eliminate or reduce health and safety risks on your site.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 will apply to self builders who directly employ workers. As employers, self-builders must ensure the health and safety of their employees. The Act will also apply to self builders who are considered to be self-employed – this could be the case if the self-builder intends to sell the property once it is complete.
The CDM Regulations place duties on everyone involved in the construction process to properly plan, design and carry out the project, including specific duties for clients, contractors and designers. These regulations have recently been revised in 2015 with significant implications for self-builders as domestic projects, which were normally excluded under the 2007 regulations, are now included for the first time.
Duties include appointing suitable persons to ensure that health and safety is being undertaken correctly, preparing health and safety plans and notifying the HSE for certain types of builds. This means self-builders must ensure that the work areas and methods they have asserted control over are reasonably safe and that they appoint. It also means that if the self-builder does not specifically appoint someone to undertake the responsibility for health and safety, such as the Principal Contractor or Principal Designer, then they assume the responsibilities themselves. This could leave you exposed to complicated legislation with unintended consequences.