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Posted on June 25th 2015 by admin-movingin

Agents could be in dark over new health and safety law

Concerns have been raised that letting and managing agents who commission work on their landlords’ properties are unaware of new legal requirements.

In April, a health and safety law came into force that affects all building work carried out in the domestic sector, including private rented homes.

For health and safety purposes, domestic projects such as replacing windows or boilers are now treated in the same way as large new housing developments, or the construction of shopping centres and office blocks.

Failure to comply with CDM, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, could prove a serious problem in future should the landlord wish to sell but cannot produce the required paperwork – a health and safety file.

Louise Hosking, chartered safety and health practitioner at Hosking Associates, said CDM has implications for anyone organising construction work.

She emphasised that this includes agents who organise building work, “so acting as the client as defined by the regulations”.

CDM does not apply to maintenance work, for example, replacing a light bulb or tap washer, but does apply to building work. Agents may have to decide how to define building work.

Hosking, who is also extremely concerned about low awareness of CDM, was asked for advice and guidance for letting and managing agents, and this is what she says.

“CDM covers construction, alteration, renovation and maintenance. It specifies legal requirements on site safety standards and provision of welfare facilities.

It identifies duty holders who are:

  • The Client – commissions and organises work
  • The Contractor (if there is only one)
  • The Principal Contractor (PC) [must be appointed in writing by the client if there is more than one]
  • The Designer
  • The Principal Designer (PD) [must be appointed in writing if there is more than one contractor]

Pre-construction (or hazard) information must be available before starting work. This is likely to be information which can be relatively easily ascertained when a new instruction is taken on.

It could include the location of fuse boxes, stopcocks, and other hazards such as the location of asbestos or issues to do with work at height such as difficult access to water tanks. If it is not available, contractors must be provided with the time to explore issues as they affect them directly.

A Construction Phase Plan (CPP) must be created by the contractor or principal contractor before work starts (for every project.)

The regulations specify standards of how the contractor or PC must manage site safety to protect not only those working there, but anyone else who could be affected, such as the occupier.

The Construction Industry Training Board has created a CPP app which can be used to create a plan with minimal fuss. Both the CITB and HSE have templates on their websites too.

Designers decide how the work will be undertaken, the materials to be used, and define costs. They must create a concept and a sequence of work which can be safely built, used, maintained, and ultimately decommissioned.

This could mean installing new windows which can be cleaned from the inside rather than via ladder, or choosing an alternative to solvent-based chemical products and paints.

If a PD has been appointed, a Health and Safety file must be collated by them during the project and presented at the end.

It is likely we will see files being requested by conveyancing solicitors when property is bought and sold in the future, so letting agents must make sure these are being created.

This ‘handover pack’ includes information on exactly what has been built, the sequence of build, materials or components installed and how.

The regulations only apply to construction work. This means the use of construction skills, materials and tools.

Maintenance to fixed plant which involves mechanical adjustment and replacing components, lubrication or checks is not construction work. Replacing a boiler will be construction work as new or different openings may be required and construction work is being undertaken.

Replacing a light fitting or washer on a tap will be maintenance.

Similarly, term maintenance is not covered by CDM. But if a term contractor undertakes a project, for example replacing windows, this will fall into the scope of the regulations.

The regulations apply equally to employed labour who undertake construction work.

The HSE have been keen to emphasise a proportionate response. A risk-based approach should be taken; where several trades are a necessity, when structural alteration is being undertaken, or working at height and excavation is required, a greater consideration to safety is required.

For smaller jobs, a Construction Phase Plan will be required but it would be much more simple.

Health and Safety legislation has always required letting agents who use contractors to have certain controls in place to ensure they use people with the right skills, knowledge and experience to work safely.

The aim of the new legislation is to make everyone think before work starts. If followed, there should be fewer surprises along the way.

There is a cost to greater safety and supervision which will be passed on.”