The Minister for Enterprise and Innovation published draft Health and Safety Regulations on 23 November 2012 for consultation purposes. The deadline for receipt of submissions is 14 December 2012. The intention is that the new regulations will be finalised, drafted and signed by 1 June 2013. The purpose of this article is to give a brief overview of the main provisions contained in the draft regulations which, if enacted in their current form, will be a welcome addition to construction safety law.

The title of the new regulations is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013. The regulations will replace and revoke the following existing legislation:

  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 (SI No 504 of 2006)
  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (SI no 130 of 2008)
  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) (Amendment No 2) Regulations 2008 (SI No 423 of 2008)
  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (SI No 523 of 2010)

Accordingly, the new legislation will simplify and consolidate construction safety legislation.

The main changes are as follows:

1. Domestic Projects

Domestic projects will be subject to the construction regulations for the first time in Irish law. It is necessary to include domestic projects in the regulations under EU law but more importantly, it is necessary to increase regulation on domestic construction sites in order to ensure adherence to health & safety law on such sites. The level of fatalities on domestic construction sites in recent years (11 in the past three years) clearly demonstrates the need for increased regulation. The inclusion of domestic projects is not as draconian as has been rumoured in recent times. The Health & Safety Authority  ("HSA") has produced draft guidelines for homeowners which set out the following duties of homeowners when embarking on a domestic project:

  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that all designers and contractors are competent to carry out their tasks. The HSA has produced a draft list of questions the homeowner should ask in order to satisfy itself of the competence of the designers.
  • Appoint a Project Supervisor Design Process ("PSDP") and a Project Supervisor Construction Stage ("PSCS"). In most cases the architect will be the PSDP and the contractor will be the PSCS so making the appointments will be a matter of asking some straightforward questions and completing an appointment form (a draft of which has been produced by the HSA). A PSDP and a PSCS should be appointed in the following situations:
    1. Where the project involves a particular risk. There is guidance as to what constitutes a particular risk
    2. Where there is more than one contractor involved, or  
    3. Where the project will take longer than 30 working days or 500 person working days.
  • Retain a safety file. This only applies to projects where PSDP and PSCS appointments are necessary. The obligation to maintain the safety file will fall to the PSDP who must then give it to the homeowner on completion of the project. The homeowner must retain the safety file so that it is available to anybody carrying out works at the property in the future.

2. Removal of Minor Projects from the Regulations

The second change is the removal of many short, low risk construction activities from the regulatory requirements of the Construction Regulations. The regulations will now only apply in circumstances where:

  1. The project involves a particular risk
  2. There is more than one contractor involved or
  3. The project will take longer than 30 working days or 500 person working days

The obligation to appoint a PSDP and a PSCS will no longer apply to projects which are not covered by any of the above three situations. This change will reduce the administrative burden on people having works carried out in the construction industry by reducing the obligation to create and maintain records which again, is to be welcomed.