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Brick By Brick – Construction for Beginners

I spent the weekend avoiding the summer sunlight, glued to my laptop investigating what it would cost to build an extension on my house.

Having braced myself for the inevitable cost of the architect's fees, the building regulations/planning permission costs, and the fees for the building work itself, I settled down to look at the practicalities of how the work would be carried out.

Construction work is a world away from the law and so, to a great extent, remains a foreign language to me. Should I really agree to someone grubbing in my garden? Is it physically possible to ‘sister a beam’? The less said about flashing the better.

Short of being told by everyone I meet that plastering is an art and should not, at any costs, be attempted by anyone other than a seasoned professional, the only other tidbits of technical knowledge I’ve picked up have been gleaned from the work accident cases I’ve dealt with, which have given me a glimpse into the world of building.

I have acted for numerous people who have been injured at work due to either the negligence of their employers or because their employers have breached the statutory duties they owed to those employees.

Those statutory duties have been added to and altered over the years, recently with the Enterprise Act which removed employees' rights to rely on breaches of various statutory duties as direct causes of action in personal injury claims.

My dream of a kitchen in which you could swing a cat reminded me that those statutory duties were reinforced with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, which came into force on the 6 April, 2015.

Amongst other issues, the Regulations place upon me (or you) as a domestic client, the duty to make sure a project is suitably managed and to ensure the health and safety of all who might be affected by the project, including members of the public.

This is the case, even if it is a building job being carried out at your home, although those duties will normally pass to the lead contractor working on a property. If I employ someone to design my kitchen, I can ask an architect or other designer to take on the management duty instead, if they agree to do so in writing.

It isn't all one way, though, people working on the job, such as workmen, have a duty to take care for their own safety. They are obliged to follow site rules, only do work they are sufficiently trained to undertake, cooperate with other duty holders, and report any risk taking they witness on site.

At first glance, my heart sank when I remembered these regulations. After all, no-one wants to see unnecessary regulatory control or to deal with extra red tape if they can avoid it. Following a bit of reflection, though, I came to the conclusion that, where the health and safety of employees and members of the public is concerned, a little bit of care is never too much to ask.

If I end up with a kitchen big enough to fit more than two people in it at any one time, a spot of extra thought will certainly have been worth the effort.

Robert Synnott is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

For a free consultation about a work accident compensation claim, call our No Win No Fee Personal Injury Lawyers 24 hours 7 days a week on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will get back to you.

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