CROSS Safety Report
Lack of method statements on domestic projects
This report is over 2 years old
A reporter has observed that where an opening is being formed on domestic properties for, say a rear extension, that the builders tend to remove the masonry and follow up with the temporary propping.
Key Learning Outcomes
For builders and construction professionals:
- It is good practice to carry out a risk assessment and method statement (RAMS) for all construction activities. This can ensure the sequencing of work activities, such as large openings in walls, are properly considered and planned.
- Having a competent temporary works designer/adviser in place to supply an engineered solution can ensure all temporary works are carefully considered and planned
- Verification of temporary works erection by a competent person who can oversee and coordinate the whole process can also ensure the works are installed correctly
For civil and structural design engineers:
While you may not be involved in the temporary works design, it can be good practice to provide a detailed description or sequence of works for any propping requirements on the drawings to highlight these to the builder
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On a number of occasions, a reporter has observed that where an opening is being formed on domestic properties for, say a rear extension, that the builders tend to remove the masonry and follow up with the temporary propping.
This method tends to cause a significant amount of disruption to the structure which must be remedied after the cracking appears. On domestic contracts, the works are usually barely specified, and it is left to the builder to come up with a method of work.
A detailed description of the propping requirements is necessary to counter this issue either in the margin notes on the general layout drawings or in the specification if there is one.
A detailed description of the propping requirements is necessary to counter this issue either in the margin notes on the general layout drawings or in the specification if there is one
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On the domestic alteration projects I work on, if there's any significant structural demolition entailed I produce 3 drawings of the structure that is to be altered; as existing noting any structural defects, after demolition showing where I consider temporary support should be provided and the capacity it should have, and as altered. I back this up with a requirement that the contractor submit their own proposals for temporary supports and a method statement for this work as part of their tender. Sometimes this ends up with me designing the temporary supports, for which I obtain the clients' agreement. This procedure is generally successful in getting the contractor to take the issue of the stability of the incomplete structure seriously and to think through how they get from what's there now to what's to replace it.
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Domestic projects are often procured directly with the builder, by a householder who has not the knowledge or experience to be able to procure or properly specify the works.
Temporary works responsibility
The householder is only looking at the final result, and the builder has to ensure it is done in a safe way. There is no qualification or experience requirement for anyone to call themselves a builder. Often there is no engineer involved at all, and if there was one at the design stage they are not present during construction.
It is however the responsibility of the builder to design any temporary works to ensure that the structure is undamaged.
It is however the responsibility of the builder to design any temporary works to ensure that the structure is undamaged
Danger of instability during construction
As always, on any project big or small, a proper design should envisage how the structure is going to get from where it is ‘now’ to where the finished design envisages it to be. The general position is that dangers of instability exist in all intermediate stages. There have been significant bridge failures because of overlooking this reality never mind domestic opening up works.
Whether the work is domestic or non-domestic, it should be properly planned and carried out in a safe manner. Regardless of the type of project, builders should have the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience, and training for the tasks they are undertaking.
Should builders be licensed?
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 applies just as much to domestic projects as it does other workplaces (unless it’s DIY) and CDM Regulations 2015 has brought domestic projects in scope where previously they were exempt from certain duties.
The Federation of Master Builders has published Licence to build: A pathway to licensing UK construction which makes the case for builders to be licensed.