Loft conversions – your responsibilities for health and safety

I was recently approached for advice by a friend who is considering converting their loft into a third bedroom. She had so many questions and it made me realise just how tricky it is for non-building professionals to understand all the ins and outs of this type of work. There’s a whole article on this part of it if you want to read more. The key thing from my point of view is that any work on a loft or extension is going to need a survey – either for party wall purposes or structural, but my friend knew that. However, what struck me was that she had no knowledge whatsoever of a homeowner’s duties to the health and safety of those working on the project.

I think most people are aware of the Health and Safety Executive and that builders and other professionals must adhere to the numerous regulations in place. But did you know there is a little thing called the ‘The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015’ (CDM) which places responsibility well and truly in the hands of the homeowner of an extension or major piece of work is being carried out on their property? Not such a little thing then. The images below are something you don’t want to see on your property…


The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

So, what is the CDM and what does it mean for the humble homeowner who’s having a bit of work done? The idea of the CDM is that whatever your role in construction, be it contractor, labourer, project manager, you have a part to play in the health and safety of all on site.

The CDM helps all involved in a big project to plan work and manage risks from the beginning, to ensure the right people are involved and to communicate effectively across the project.

Your responsibilities

If you are having construction work done on your own home, or on the home of a family member you are a classed as a ‘domestic client’ – it’s worth bearing in mind if you are a landlord working on property associated with your letting business that you are classed as a commercial client and this brings a whole raft of different responsibilities. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll stick with domestic clients for now.

So, as a domestic client, your duties under CDM 2015 are usually passed on to others who are carrying out the construction work on your behalf (such as designers and contractors). Those carrying out the work will also have duties of their own. But it is your responsibility to make sure this is all in place – and in writing!

You must have what is a called a ‘principal designer’. Now this doesn’t mean it needs to be your designer, or architect. It could be the main building contractor, or, it could even be your surveyor. I am aware of a recent case, not one of my clients I might add, who was having work done, received a visit from the HSE and had not got all the appropriate paperwork in place and risked a £3000 fine and a big delay on building work!

Any designer in charge of coordinating and managing a project is assumed to be the principal designer. However, if they do not have a written agreement with the domestic client to confirm they are taking on the client duties, those duties automatically pass to the principal contractor.

How big is the project?

And finally, if your extension project is going to last more than 30 days and have more than 20 workers on site at any given point, or it is going to exceed more than 500 person days of construction work, you will need to notify the HSE as it is classed as ‘Notifiable work’. Another whole host of regulations to ensure you follow. Maybe more on that another time.

Get in touch with Collier Stevens if you are planning a home extension or loft conversion and we can provide competitive quotes for party wall agreements and structural surveys.

The information in this article is for guidance only. There is no substitute for advice specific to your situation. If this is an old post, the law may have changed since it was written.

(Originally published by Steven Way, 30 May 2017)