When you hire someone to build your home you become a ‘principal’ under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. A principal must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that no contractor or subcontractor, or their employees, are harmed while doing any work on the house site. Site safety is important.
To fulfil your duties as a principal on your building project, there are a few things you can do:
- Make sure the main contractor keeps the site fenced.
- Make sure the main contractor has a health and safety site plan. Ask to see a copy before you sign the contract.
- Only engage people who you know are aware of the health and safety laws in New Zealand.
- Make sure there is always someone in charge – with subcontractors coming and going it won’t always be clear who is managing health and safety on the site at any point in time so you need to make sure there are clear lines of responsibility.
If you bring a group of friends on site to do some of the work, the builder will not be responsible if one of them gets hurt. For example, should you organise a working bee to do the painting while there are still workmen on the site, and one of your friends collides with the electrician and is impaled on the drill he was using, under the Act you may be responsible for those injuries.
Renovations and repairs
A person already living in the house, who hires people to do repairs or renovations, is not a principal under the Act, i.e. house occupiers are excluded from liability under the Act. Yes, we’re not sure why this is the case, too.
Your Builder’s Responsibilities
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, It’s up to your builder (if you have a full contract) to ensure that people working on the site don’t get hurt, which means they also must identify hazards and remove them, isolate them, or minimise them as much as possible.
Your builder’s health and site safety plan should include:
- The person responsible for health and safety on site.
- Identification and control of potential hazards.
- Posting of notices and warnings of potential hazards.
- Restriction of access to the site to authorised people only.
- Guidance on ensuring a safe working environment at all times, for example, avoiding stacking things that could topple over.
- Instruction in safe methods and practices.
- Provision for safety meetings.
- Safety audits on plant and procedures.
- The recording and investigation of accidents.
Courtesy of Consumerbuild (now found within the Consumer site)
Building Materials storage
Materials can be affected by bad handling and storage. For example, timber left uncovered can get wet and make it unusable for framing.
- Make sure that materials are protected from the weather, stored correctly – not on bare ground or uneven surfaces – and are handled properly. Timber must be under a certain level of moisture before it can be used for flooring and framing.
- Get clear title (e.g. receipts) to materials stored off-site, and have insurance coverage in case of theft or your builder going into liquidation.
- Cameras can play a valuable role – document problems immediately, discuss with the builder straight away and take photos in case of further issues.