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Change to Health and Safety Regulations for Domestic Clients and their Architects 

June 1st 2013 will see a significant change to the Construction Safety Regulations and the way the Regulations will affect domestic clients and their Architects. Up to now domestic clients (clients commissioning works in their own home) did not have to appoint Project Supervisors or notify their projects to the Health and Safety Authority (H.S.A.) All this changes on the first of June.
From this date onwards, all clients must appoint a Project Supervisor for the Design Stage (PSDP) and for the Construction Stage (PSCS) of a construction project and notify the H.S.A. that the project is starting. This applies to nearly all projects involving an Architect, except for those projects which are small, uncomplicated and almost risk-free (a more precise definition of what is exempt is set out in Question 4 below)
There have been a number of questions about this.
Q1. What do I have to do to comply with this?
For all but the smallest projects an Architect must inform the client of the client’s duty to appoint, in writing, a PSDP and a PSCS. It would also be wise to inform the client that the project must be notified to the H.S.A. The RIAI have a standard form of engagement for a PSDP. The AF1 form that notifies the H.S.A. of a project starting can be found on the H.S.A website,  This website also includes useful guidance for designers, clients and contractors.
 All of the above is in addition to the existing duties of designers, to design in a manner that will allow the project to be constructed, maintained and demolished in a safe manner (a full list of the duties of designers may be found in Regulation 15 of SI 504 of 2006 and in guidance documents issued by the RIAI and the H.S.A.)
Q2. When is a project deemed to have started?
As soon as the design process commences. But remember that the Regulations have a quite different definition of design than would most Architects. The decision to proceed with a project (say a 40 metre square extension at the rear of a house) could be construed as the start of the design process and the appointment of an Architect to design that extension would almost certainly be the start of the design process. So, in terms of the Construction Safety Regulations, design will have started before the architect ever puts a felt tipped marker to paper.
Q.3 Does my client have to appoint a Project Supervisor Construction Stage (PSCS) for a domestic project going on site after the 1st June where I have already done the design work?
No. The revised regulations are not and cannot be retrospective. The requirement to appoint a PSCS applies only to projects where the design process commences on or after June 1st 2013. Informal conversations with the H.S.A. have confirmed this (There will be  further cut off date in a year and members will be informed of this as it arises, see Q7.)
Q4. Are some small projects still exempt from the new Regulations?
Yes, but these are very small, uncomplicated projects without a particular risk. Small (less than 30 working days, or 500 person days) uncomplicated (only one contractor with no sub-contractors) and having no Particular Risk (Particular Risks are defined in the Regulations but risks are not confined to this Schedule and could include other risks)
For example the 40 square metre extension mentioned above would almost certainly not be exempt but an internal painting contract probably would be exempt (although painting halls and stairs in historic houses could involve a particular risk; falls from a height)
A less obvious project requiring a PSDP and notification would be a client intending to replace their heating system. This is unlikely to exceed 30 working days or 500 person days, probably does not involve a particular risk but will almost certainly involve a plumbing contractor and an electrical sub-contractor (more than one contractor as defined in the regulations) Therefore this project is not exempt.
Q5. Does this Regulation change the Safety role of the Architect specialising in domestic work?
Yes and no.
Yes, because the Architect for a domestic project must now inform the Client of their duties under the Construction Safety Regulations to appoint a PSDP (and later a PSCS) and to notify the H.S.A.
No, because the new Regulation does not change in any way the primary duty of Architects as designers under the Regulations. That is to design in such a way that the project can be built, maintained and demolished in a safe way, to take into account the Principles of Prevention, to identify hazards and carry out risk assessments of these hazards. This very important duty has not changed and has been in place since 1995, nearly 20 years.
Q6. Surely all this Health and Safety Regulation is onerous and over-the- top for small domestic projects?
Yes, it is a very rigorous and exacting piece of legislation and carries very severe penalties in the case of a prosecution, a maximum 3 million euro fine and/or a maximum two years in prison.
On the other hand the commonly held perception that domestic projects were relatively safe has proven to be tragically wrong. Studies in the UK and Ireland have shown that safety standards are much lower on smaller, domestic scale projects and fatality rates are much higher on smaller projects than on larger ones.
Q7. Are completely new Construction Regulations on the way and what do they entail?
Yes. SI 504 of 2006 and SI 461 of 2012 (which changed the definition of “Client” in the Regulations) are due to be replaced soon. The new Regulations do not substantially change any of the above requirements but hopefully will tidy up some anomalies and make certain tasks simpler. As soon as the RIAI has sight of the Regulations another advice note will issue.

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