Selling Your House? Be Sure Building Work Was Signed Off

Have the Right Approvals in Place to Avoid a House Sale Disaster

Selling your house is stressful enough without finding out that the whole deal could fall through because you are missing a crucial piece of paper.

Anyone who has bought or sold a house will know about the seemingly limitless forms, reports and sundry pieces of information that conveyancing solicitors demand. Often, they seem to ask for them moments before exchange of contracts, and invariably the one piece that is missing is the one that could make or break the deal.

This is why Balgores Estate Agents urges every one of their property sellers to make sure they have the right paperwork for any and all building work that has been carried out the moment they list their property for sale.

Planning consent

The majority of major alterations require planning consent from the local authority, and if you have had any such work done on your property, prospective buyers will, of course, want to see that it was approved correctly.

If the consent documents are lost, you can usually get a copy from the local council for a nominal administration fee, but it is better to do this as early as possible. The last thing you need is the added worry of furiously trying to get hold of a piece of paper at the eleventh hour in order to exchange contracts.

Building regulations

Even if building works or improvements did not require planning permission, they will still need building regulations approval. This is a certificate stating that the work meets the essential safety regulation laid down by the government.

The Competent Persons Scheme allows authorised individuals (such as builders, plumbers and electricians) to sign off their own work. This means that when they finish the job, they issue a Completion Certificate, confirming that the work complies with the applicable regulations.

It is important to hang on to these Certificates, as copies are not held by the local authority.

Missing approvals

If you are missing any of the necessary approvals, there are a number of steps you can take. Firstly, it is important to discuss the problem with your solicitor as early as possible, so that any potential issues can be ironed out before they can endanger the sale.

Where a Building Regulations Certificate is missing, it might not be an issue if the work was carried out some time ago, as regulations have changed over the past 10-20 years.

If a certificate is definitely needed but not present, then it is impossible to get one retrospectively, as the building inspector would need to assess the work from the very beginning. In this situation, the best solution is to obtain building regulation indemnity insurance, which will pay out in the event that the works have not been carried out correctly. Cover is relatively inexpensive – a basic policy for a £500,000 house costs around £175.

Absent planning permission is potentially a bigger problem. If it emerges that your building work needed planning approval but was done without it, you should think twice before approaching the planning authorities retrospectively. Even a speculative telephone call could trigger an inspection and result in a demolition order, so speak to your solicitor before you do anything else.

Photo by Holland And Green Architectural Design via Flickr CC Licence.

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Safety Advice For Surveyors

Staying safe in various hazardous outdoor environments and weather

Construction is one of the most hazardous industries in terms of injuries and fatalities, and while land surveyors aren’t directly classified as construction workers, they’re often undertaking their duties in potentially dangerous situations. Construction areas, mines and working near busy roads are a few examples of the hazards surveyors often face.

Some basic safety procedures should be adopted to minimise the risk of accidents and injury when undertaking topographical surveys.

Construction site risks

Wherever building or construction of any sort is taking place, risks inevitably abound and it’s important to ensure safety.

The surveyor should ensure they’re briefed on any particular safety hazards and procedures existing in the construction area they’re working in. It’s not just the obvious such as heavy vehicular movement and possible falling objects, but also the importance of bearing in mind the possible need for hearing and eye protection.

The surveyor should ensure they’re equipped with basic safety wear such as high vis jackets, hard hats and safety footwear, whether or not the construction site provides them.

Unstable conditions

A surveyor may find themselves working on unstable areas including loose rocks and stone – especially dangerous if near an incline or sheer fall such as down a hillside. Slippery conditions such as near water need to be taken account of and protected against by using suitable footwear and maybe a safety harness.

Remote areas

Surveyors should ensure they’re fully equipped and prepared for work in remote locations where access to support could take time to reach.

For example, check vehicles are fit to undertake the journey and can easily be made roadworthy if problems occur; basics such as ensuring an inflated spare wheel is present and maybe a small tyre compressor is packed to deal with slow punctures. Along with one or two mobile phones (preferably on different networks just in case reception is poor for one of them) and in car chargers; Wilderness Scotland remind us that a fully charged battery is essential.

Ensure a sat nav and good paper map is included, and pack plenty of food and water. Non-perishable and easy to store foodstuffs such as energy bars are ideal.

Weather

It’s sometimes easy to forget how long surveyors may be out in various weather conditions, so preparation is key – maybe for various weather types bearing in mind the changeable nature of the UK climate.

Rain – durable waterproofs such as a good quality raincoat or waterproofs are a minimum along with plenty of cloths and towels to dry off and keep equipment dry.

Thunder and lightning – work should be suspended if thunder and lightning is present. Don’t shelter under a tree, and keep well away from equipment such as metal tripods as they can act as a lightning conductor.

Cold – several layers are the best way to stave off the colder weather, and something hot to drink is a good idea. If possible, taking breaks to warm up as extended periods in colder temperatures can affect performance and concentration can decline; especially dangerous if working in hazardous areas such as by a roadside.

Heat – keep covered without becoming uncomfortable. A brimmed hat and loose clothing will keep a surveyor outside in the sun as cool as possible; take plenty of water and keep hydrated – it’s easy to become dehydrated without realising it.

Don’t be tempted to skimp on safety; for example, don’t skip wearing the high vis jacket in the interests of wearing as little clothing as possible if working in a hazardous area. Use sunscreen and reapply at regular intervals to protect the skin against sun damage if out for an extended period.

Take plenty of breaks preferably in the shade – an outdoor umbrella could be a useful item to take along.

Insects and wildlife hazards

There could be a risk of bites, stings and more even if not surveying in a wildlife area such as a wood or forest. Wearing clothing that covers as much bare skin as possible is important even if a hot day makes it tempting to remove layers, and a basic first aid kit to treat insect bites is a worthwhile investment.

Traffic hazards

If working by roadsides, beware of traffic at close proximity possibly travelling at high speeds. High vis jackets are a minimum so motorists see the surveyor in good time, and ideally some signage warning approaching motorists that surveying is in progress ahead could be deployed.

Safety first

The main consideration for the surveyor is to prepare for the conditions and locations likely to be encountered. A suitable first aid kit appropriate to the circumstances should always feature in any planning.

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Industrial Cleaning Health and Safety

The need to follow safety procedures and use the right equipment

Industrial and commercial settings often require specialist, heavy duty cleaning involving the use of powerful materials and perhaps difficult access such as working at height when cleaning windows and hard to reach lighting installations. In either case, proper adherence to good health and safety procedures is vital and this often involves the use of protective equipment.

Risk assessment

When, for example, a contract cleaning company is asked to come and quote for a new job they would assess the risks involved in undertaking the cleaning tasks. If a company directly employs cleaners then they would carry out a risk assessment and communicate the findings to the cleaning staff.

Areas covered would include:

  • Slips and trips possibilities
  • Working at height implications
  • COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health)
  • Injury potential (lifting items to gain access to clean them, for example)

The above are all health and safety concerns, and the HSE has a section devoted to the cleaning industry.

The risk assessment would go on to cover areas such as:

  • Lines of communication between the cleaning company (or cleaning employees) and the business
  • Facilities available to the cleaners such as storage facilities and access to sinks and running water
  • The client company’s own safe practice activities such as keeping walkways clear, prompt mopping up of spillages and so on
  • Accident, ‘near miss’ and damage reporting (for example, loose floor tiles or anything with the potential to cause accidents)
  • The secure storage of cleaning equipment, especially hazardous substances and procedures put in place to ensure only trained cleaning staff can access them
  • What cleaning staff should do in the event of a fire

Hazards to cleaning personnel and remedies

Cleaning substances – some cleaning materials including fluids can be highly toxic and dangerous if not handled properly. If a certain product is used, then knowing what procedures to follow in its use and what safety equipment to use.

It may be that gloves and goggles are required and perhaps a breathing mask if the substance gives off dangerous fumes. Staff using the substance should know how much to use and (if applicable) how to prepare it; for example, how many parts of the substance to mix with water or similar.

It’s then important to assess what items of protective and safety equipment may be required (for example, disposable overalls or gloves) and ensuring a good supply is ordered from a suitable industrial cleaning supplies company.

Slips and trips – these can sometimes be caused by the cleaning staff to employees of the company. For example, not leaving warning signs out when a floor has been wet cleaned can cause hazards as could cleaning a surface with the wrong cleaning material that makes it slippery.

Good practices when using cabling such as when operating vacuum cleaners to avoid trips should be utilised.

Working at height – this is governed by Work at Height Regulations. Proper and thorough assessment and planning should be undertaken, and the ensuring that those working at height are competent to do so. Equipment such as ladders should be regularly checked and maintained, and proper fall prevention and fall breaking equipment (such as harnesses) should be used where applicable.

Injury prevention – cleaning is a physically demanding and labour intensive occupation, and staff are often working in awkward postures when accessing difficult to reach areas. Strain on muscles, nerves and bones can result.

The Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees as far as is practical. With injuries, it’s a question of monitoring activities and looking for the following signs:

  • Increased sickness and absences amongst staff
  • More reports of pain and discomfort from employees especially relating to certain tasks or using a particular piece of equipment such as a heavy floor cleaner
  • More accidents and injuries being recorded
  • Low morale or reluctance amongst staff to undertake certain tasks
  • Evidence of staff wearing bandages, splints or some type of back support

If any or all of the above surface, then investigative work is required to isolate the issue.

Good cleaning practices

It all starts with an effective risk assessment and regular monitoring of the situation whether running a team of contract cleaners or directly employing cleaning staff.

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When Do Your Employees Need SMSTS Refresher Training?

Certification lasts for five years, but refresher training is recommended every three years.

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme is an industry recognised course that ensures compliance with all today’s legislative Health and Safety demands.

Statistics recently released by the Health and Safety Executive confirmed what the construction industry has intuitively known for some time – that the UK is a world leader in the implementation of Health and Safety practices.

Inevitably, this laudable position has not come about without significant legislation. The construction industry is statistically the most high-risk profession in terms of employee injuries, and is regulated accordingly. It is, therefore, particularly important that businesses working in this sector understand and comply with the rules.

Conducting site risk assessments, displaying the correct warning signs and ensuring personnel are adequately trained are all key to maintaining a robust culture of Health and Safety, ensuring that employees are safe, your business is in compliance and the UK’s position as a trailblazer in Health and Safety is maintained.

What is SMSTS?

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme is a five-day course aimed at Site Managers, Agents and anybody who is, or is going to be, responsible for planning, organising, monitoring, controlling and administering other personnel and groups of workers.

This course covers the relevant legislation and other important considerations that relate to safe working practices in the building, construction and civil engineering industries.

What does the course involve?

Participants are taught all they need to know in order to effectively enforce their health and safety code of practice onsite in the real world. This includes the importance of carrying out risk assessments in the workplace and tools to manage and monitor the numerous hazards that those working within the construction industry encounter every day.

There are a number of workshop sessions on specific areas that carry their own unique risks, including working with scaffolding, electricity, in confined spaces and performing excavation work.

Legislation

Attendees will become familiar with the following important pieces of HSE legislation:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
  • Provision & Use of Work Equipment 1998
  • Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Working at Height Regulations 2005
  • Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
  • Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006
  • Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007

Assessment and Certification

Course assessment is through a combination of core exercises and a final multiple-choice examination.

Participants receive their Construction Site Manager’s Safety Certificate on successful completion of the course. Note that for successful completion, attendance is mandatory at all sessions and workshops.

Refresher Training

The Certificate remains valid for five years. However, Health and Safety legislation is constantly changing and evolving, as are the technologies and methodologies employed in the construction, building and civil engineering sectors.

For these reasons, it is considered best practice for everyone to undertake an SMSTS Refresher Course no later than three years after completing the full training course.

Stay on top of the world

The UK is justifiably proud of its world-leading position in Health and Safety. Keep your employees safe, your business in compliance and the UK on top of the world rankings by booking SMSTS refresher training today!

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How to Manage Mobile Worker Health and Safety

IOSH issues a new guide for mobile workers’ health, safety and security.

New publication is specifically aimed at companies who deploy employees overseas on both long and short term assignments.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has teamed up with the International SOS Foundation to develop a new publication that outlines an organisation’s responsibilities for the health, safety and security of workers who travel overseas in the course of their work.

“Managing the Safety, Health and Security of Mobile Workers: An Occupational Safety and Health Practitioner’s Guide” is one of a range of IOSH courses in London. It discusses how an occupational safety and health professional’s skills, knowledge and expertise can help organisations care for workers who are travelling the world on business by developing the competencies to assess risk. It also gives guidance to subsequently plan, maintain and implement risk mitigation strategies, systems and procedures.

The Guide addresses the need for careful planning and preparation in considering worker wellbeing and medical, personal safety and security issues. It goes on to make the case for dynamic risk assessment, in which risk is constantly re-assessed in line with changing health, security and political conditions.

It also reviews such issues as safety while travelling on roads, things to consider when choosing accommodation and managing the risks from diseases.

In addition, the guide examines how to react if a critical situation develops, and highlights the need for advance planning in terms of scenario analysis and development of emergency action plans.

In recognition of the diversity of people in the workplace, the publication also covers the specific arrangements that may be required for women, older workers, workers with disabilities, those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and students on placement.

The guide aims to help companies build competencies and therefore resilience, allowing health and safety professionals to contribute to a company’s overall travel management processes.  As Dr Pascal Rey-Herme, group medical director at International SOS, says in the foreword to the Guide: “The world is changing. Many people no longer work in their home country. Organisations around the globe are expanding and sending their people to work in emerging markets and high-risk locations.”

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Health And Safety At Home: Don’t Leave Your Pets in the Conservatory in Summer

Keep your pets safe in hot weather by keeping them out of hot, stuffy living spaces

Conservatories can get very warm during the summer months – and that could be lethal for your pet.

We all love to spend time with our pets in the summer, and we’re always looking out for their well-being too. We make sure that they’ve got access to plenty of water, never leave them in hot cars and always ensure that we play with them in the shade. When it comes to leaving your pet at home though, it’s important to be aware of just how dangerous it can be to leave them in the conservatory.

Spending time together

We spend a lot of time in our conservatories during the summer. With the doors open and the sunshine streaming in through the windows, they’re a great place to relax. Chances are, your pets will be there with you too, whether it’s your cat making the most of the sun or your dog waiting for you to throw a ball out into the garden for them to catch. However, you should never be tempted to shut them in there while you’re not there.

Our pets are more sensitive to high temperatures

We’re all aware of the dangers of leaving our pets in the car, and those exact same dangers are there in your conservatory. It can become hot very quickly, and what starts as a comfortable temperature for your pet can soon become dangerous. Some conservatory glass, such as Solarlux windows, is very good at reflecting heat, but that’s to make the room more comfortable for you, not safe for your pets to be kept in. No matter how cool it may feel to you, it’s never worth the risk.

Keep your pet safe this summer

Babies can get too hot very quickly too, so take the same approach as you would do with your pets and never leave them unsupervised in your conservatory. When you do leave your pet indoors during the summer, always make sure that they have access to water and shade – and keep your conservatory off limits.

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Safety Advice For Roofers

Roofer safely working on a roof, with a harnessHow To Keep Safe On The Roof

Work as a roofer? You’ll know that safety is the most important part of the job. We take a look a rooftop safety.

If you work as a roofer, then you’ll already know that safety is the most important part of the job. With so much potential risks in this line of work, it’s essential to have adequate training and take all necessary precautions to prevent any nasty accidents. In this post we look at the most important things to remember if you want to keep safe while working on a roof.

Insurance

With a job that carries risks, it is especially important to take out roofers insurance so that you are covered in the event of any incidents. Do your research and make sure you get the best cover for your money.

Adequate Access Equipment

It’s essential to ensure that you have adequate access equipment in order to access a roof safely. This means having the right ladder for the space, and ensuring that all equipment is in full working order. It’s worth taking the time to search the internet to see what sort of new equipment is available – especially if you have been in the industry and using the same equipment for a long time. If this is the case, then it is also necessary to make sure that older equipment is checked and updated if required.

Edge Protection

In many cases it is necessary to set up some kind of edge protection, such as a guard rail, toe board or brick guard. This adds an extra layer of security should you or a colleague loose your footing or drop equipment – remember, you have to keep any potential passers-by safe, as well as yourself.

Personal Protective Equipment

It is essential to use adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) including helmets, goggles and gloves. Make sure any PPE used meets minimum safety standards and is in fully functioning order. This offers extra protection in the event of an accident, and can make all the difference between a minor and a major incident.

Keep The Site Tidy

It is essential to keep your site tidy at all times. It’s obvious that working at a height is risky, but don’t forget that it can be just as hazardous to be on the ground. Falling materials are one of the most common causes of accidents experienced by roofers, demonstrating the need to be clean and ordered. You should never throw anything from a roof, and it’s important to use nets if there is any chance of materials falling – this is mandatory if working in a public space.

Transport Materials Safely

You should never be tempted to carry too much up a ladder, as you risk losing your balance or dropping materials on people standing below. It’s far better to make several trips and take longer doing a safe job.

Respond to the Weather

There are some weather conditions in which you should not be on a roof – heavy rain makes surfaces slippery and hazardous. Never be tempted to work in circumstances that could potentially be risky, as many people have learnt this lesson the hard way.

Consider going on a health and safety awareness training course before starting your first job. If you are a self-employed contractor, this is especially important.

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