Thursday, 30 May 2013

Questions (122)

Noel Grealish

Question:

122. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the way the safety, health and welfare at work regulations, due to be in force from 1 June, will affect the owners of buy-to-let properties who wish to upgrade; the reason these regulations apply to small domestic projects; if any small buy-to-let or domestic building work is excluded and, if so, the criteria for such exclusion; if he will accept that when a house owner, whether domestic or buy-to-let, engages a builder, the expectation is that the builder alone has the expertise to comply with the regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26424/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

On 23 November 2012, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 461 of 2012) were signed, these Regulations had a deferred operational date of 1 June 2013. The main provision of these Regulations was the change in the definition of client by removing the phrase "in the course or furtherance of a trade, business or undertaking, or who undertakes a project directly in the course or furtherance of such trade, business or undertaking;". This removal means that domestic home owners having construction works carried out on their own domestic dwellings will from 1 June 2013 have certain responsibilities under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 to 2012.

Occupational health and safety is as important on a small domestic construction site as it is on a larger commercial site, possibly more so. Evidence has shown that between 2010 and 2012 many serious injuries and 11 deaths have occurred on domestic construction sites. The extension of responsibilities to include domestic home owners as clients will help combat such fatalities and serious injuries on domestic construction sites. Furthermore, in 2009 the European Commission began Infringement proceedings against Ireland regarding, amongst other things, the exclusion of domestic home owners from the definition of client. The introduction of the change in definition is necessary for Ireland to comply with our obligations under European law and avoid substantial fines for the taxpayer.

Arguably, the increased standards will promote the use of experienced competent and reputable contractors thereby reducing undeclared work in the shadow economy. The Deputy refers to the owners of buy to let properties, I would like to point out that there will be no change to the responsibilities for such owners as landlords always had responsibilities to make appointments under the Construction Regulations as their properties would be considered within the criteria for a trade, business or undertaking. I would also point out that in relation to works carried out on domestic dwellings health and safety requirements existed prior to the introduction of this amendment.

The provisions of the Construction Regulations apply to the contractors by way of their responsibilities to their employees in relation to provision of a safe place of work. The provisions of the Construction Regulations will now relate to all works that fall within the definition of construction work. This definition corresponds with that in Directive 92/57/EEC on implementing the minimum health and safety requirements at temporary or mobile construction sites. Exclusions to such provisions apply in situations where there is only one contractor on site and where there is no particular risk involved, and where the work does not exceed 30 days duration. Where individuals require advice on whether the works they are having done will require them to make appointments under the Construction Regulations they can consult the Health and Safety Authority for clarification. There are a number of tasks that are not affected by the change in the definition of client as they do not fall within the definition of construction work, for example routine home DIY, grass cutting, painting your garden fence, cleaning your windows, replacing your locks or getting new blinds fitted.

There is a responsibility on all persons engaging others to carry out construction works to ensure themselves that the person they engage are competent to carry out the tasks they are engaged to do. The Health and Safety Authority have suggested a number of ways to assist domestic homeowners to assess competence, such as looking for certificates of competence in the trades involved or asking about previous works carried out and speaking to previous clients. The Authority is producing a helpful guide aimed directly at home owners having construction work carried out in their own homes, this will be available on the HSA’s website (www.hsa.ie). A guide to assist contractors carrying out construction work on domestic dwellings will also be available and the Authority's workplace contact unit is available to the public to offer any assistance required (Lo Call 1890 289 389).

Upon the making of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 461 of 2012), I asked the HSA to carry out a full review of the provisions of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 to 2012 and produce a consolidated set of Regulations. As part of this review I asked that the HSA identify revisions that can be effected to reduce the regulatory burden imposed on all clients in construction, while not diminishing workplace health and safety standards. A provision in the Regulations imposes a duty on a contractor to advise a client of his or her responsibilities under the Construction Regulations, where the contractor becomes aware of a situation where the client is not complying with their responsibilities. This consolidated set of Regulations will be in place shortly and will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas as required by the Statutory Instruments Acts 1947 and 1955.