Health and Safety for housebuilders: how to meet buyers’ needs

Safety for construction site workers is a significant concern to industry players. The fatal injury rate in construction is four times higher than all other industries. In 2019 – 20construction accounted for more than a third of all work-related fatalities. Injuries and deaths at work are preventable, and there are practical steps that can be taken to drastically reduce the risk of harm to construction workers and the public. However, builders also have responsibilities to the eventual residents of the homes they build, so health and safety for housebuilders is a vital topic to explore.

Safety considerations don’t end when the builder hands over the house or the warranty period expires. The structure and features of the property have lasting impacts on the people living there. Even seemingly trivial issues like damp and uneven surfaces can lead to significant problems for residents. In rare cases, such as the Grenfell Tower fire, oversights and mismanagement can even cause deaths. As the enquiry into this disaster shows, the contractor bears some responsibility, even years later.

It is therefore the responsibility of housebuilders and property developers to take safety seriously, so that carelessness doesn’t cause casualties.

Design and Safety Regulation compliance  

It’s important to start considering safety in the design stage. House design should be completed in reference to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), although specific safety regulations will differ depending on who the building is for, such as the elderly or communal homes. This means that well as the standard considerations (structure, space, electrics, water, temperature, mould, fire safety etc), housebuilders need to think practically about how the property will be used. For disabled occupants, standard housing design poses a safety risk as they are unable to use the facilities provided. This is particularly the case in houses or blocks of flats with stairs.

Therefore, a house designed for disabled residents must be suitable for their needs. This includes considerations like wider entrances and exits, step-free access, a level ground surface, suitable power units and ducts strong enough for adaptations. Facilities such as cookers, taps and bathroom controls should be suitable for someone with single hand use. They should also comply with fire safety standards and access points for emergency vehicles.

With so many safety considerations, it is crucial that you document all work on-site, so nothing falls through the cracks. Workflow management software is a simple way to do this, particularly when working with multiple stakeholders. For example, PlanRadar allows users to share up-to-date plans and BIM files, so an architect or technical team can ensure that site teams have all the information they need about materials. If the site team needs to change anything during work, they can use PlanRadar to communicate with the design team. That means that they are able to check if their changes will breach any regulations. Site teams can also log every task they complete with photo documentation attached, enabling them to prove that they built according to specifications.

Build quality should also meet regulatory standards 

Housebuilders must comply with quality standards that ensure buyers aren’t left with faulty properties and potential hazards. Building regulations are objective, unlike planning permission, and a house will pass or fail according to these regulations. Build quality should meet regulatory standards, such as stability requirements, thickness of walls, and location for openings, as well as upholding standards for construction materials and workmanship. 

Having passed building regulations inspections, it is the housebuilder’s responsibility to check and fix any defects. They should also provide a structural warranty from an approved insurance policy provider to ensure residents are protected. When building housing, there should be as little risk as possible to players involved, from architects and contractors to buyers and residents. Effective workflow management is crucial to being able to achieve a safe environment, ensuring work is not rushed to meet deadlines and that the finished property is a high-quality build. 

PlanRadar can help by tracking the installation of safety features, fireproofing or confirming the build quality during site inspections. With flexible templates, users can ensure the paperwork complies with building regulations, contract requirements and company procedures.

Aftercare for any building issues

Construction projects typically have 1-2 construction defects per 10 m², causing project overruns and rising project costs. You can divide snags into functional defects, which affect how facilities work, and cosmetic defects, which affect how the property looks. Functional defects include issues like leaking taps and broken light switches. These are the most important things to look for in terms of safety. Cosmetic defects like surface chips and cracks are largely superficial but could potentially cause injury if left unrepaired. Minor defects can easily escalate into serious problems, so it is worth conducting the snagging survey thoroughly. It’s important to keep evidence of all repaired snags so that the buyer can see the issue has been resolved.

With PlanRadar, users can create tickets on digital blueprints and annotate sections of the plan as necessary. During handovers, the new owner and contractor can prepare a snag list of elements that the contractor has to repair. If you find snags or defects during a handover, you can document them clearly with text, photos and voice memos. You can then immediately assign the task to a contractor for repair. Users can add deadlines to tasks and use the chat function to keep in contact with all team members and subcontractors in real-time.

Health & safety for housebuilders: from design to sale and beyond

When you’re building residential properties, it’s important to consider the many specific health & safety concerns that housebuilders face. Although it can seem like a time- and cost-intensive exercise, it’s required by regulations and is important to residents. If your business can prove that it handles safety well, not only will you be protected from claims, but you’ll also build a great reputation.

To learn more about how PlanRadar can help you maintain health & safety standards in your housebuilding business, you can contact us for a free consultation. You can also sign up for a 30-day free trial to test PlanRadar’s features for yourself.

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