The builders working on my daughter’s home don’t use safety gear. Is she liable if an accident occurs?

Property Clinic: Several of the workers don’t wear hard hats when climbing ladders and using scaffolding

My daughter and her husband are building an extension to their house at the moment. The builder is an old friend of her husband and comes highly recommended.

He may be an excellent builder but when I visited them last week I was struck by the lax attitude towards safety. Several of the workers were not wearing hard hats although they were climbing ladders and working on scaffolding.

I don’t want to interfere, but I think for their own good the workers should at least be wearing safety helmets. Should I voice my concerns? To whom? Also, if anything were to happen to one of the workers would my daughter and her husband be liable?

Yes. You should voice your concerns to your daughter and her husband. A failure to observe regulations may result in them being found responsible or having contributed to liability, if anything was to happen to one of the workers, writes William O’Connor.

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On all construction projects there are a number of parties that have duties under the Construction Regulations (Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations, 2013).

The regulations define various parties involved in a project and set out the responsibilities and duties they have.

For the purposes of the regulations, your daughter and her husband are the “client” the person(s) for whom a project is being carried out.

The project has been described by you as an “extension to their house”. For the purpose of this response, it is assumed the project will take longer than 30 days to complete.

The client is obliged to notify the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) where construction is likely to take more than 30 working days or 500 person days.

The duties as the client include the appointment in writing, before design work starts, of a competent and adequately resourced project supervisor for the design process (PSDP). Following this, they must appoint a project supervisor construction stage (PSCS). These two roles can be done by the same person as long as they are competent to carry out the work.

The PSDP is usually an individual or firm of chartered surveyors, architects, consulting engineers or project managers.

The PSDP is required under the regulations to ensure effectiveness in addressing and co-ordinating safety and health matters of a construction project.

The client is obliged to keep and make available the safety file (provided by the PSDP) for the completed structure and provide a copy of the safety and health plan to the PSCS.

On smaller- or medium-sized projects, the PSCS can often be the main contractor for the project, in which case it is their responsibility to manage and co-ordinate health and safety matters during the construction stage.

Given your observations to date, you should bring your concerns to the attention of your daughter and her husband immediately and inform them of their duties under the regulations as the client.

By law, the client, must appoint a project supervisor(s), keep and make available the safety file for the project, and let the HSA know the project is going to take more than 30 days.

The observations should be notified by the client to their PSCS immediately and the contractor should be consulted and reminded they have significant legal duties to uphold.

Among these, the contractor must co-operate with the PSCS; comply with the safety file and/or the directions of the project supervisors; comply with site rules and the safety and health plan and ensure that the employees comply, identify hazards, eliminate the hazards or reduce risks during construction.

The contractor should be reminded they are obliged to monitor compliance with site health and safety and take corrective action, if necessary.

Make sure your daughter and her husband check with their own insurance company that they are covered during the work to be done on the site.

Finally, your daughter and her husband should request a copy of the builder’s employers liability and public liability insurance.

William O’Connor is a partner at P O’Connor & Son, Swinford, Co Mayo