Owner Builder Work Health and Safety
A frequently asked question that owner builders need answered is in regard to their responsibility for Work Health and Safety issues on their owner builder project.
The answer is simple.
As an owner builder, you are considered to be the Principal Contractor or the Person in Charge of the Workplace. With this 'lofty title', comes considerable responsibility.
You are ultimately responsible for all aspects of Work Health and Safety on the site.
This includes ensuring every person employed on the owner builder project holds a White Card.
The White Card is awarded to persons who have completed mandatory General Safety Induction Training as legislated in each state and territory. This generally requires the completion of CPCCOHS1001A Work safely in the construction industry and the issue of the White Card by the RTO on behalf of the state regulatory body.
The owner builder has a legal obligation to sight and keep records of proof of General Safety Induction Training for each person engaged on work tasks on their site.
Additionally where owner builder controlled works include High Risk Activities, the owner builder must sight, approve, record and maintain available on site, a copy of the associated Safe Work Method Statements. These SWMS are generally prepared by the contractor responsible for completing the high risk activity. The owner builder must accept the proposed method of completing the works as detailed in the SWMS and associated controls and monitor the contractor to ensure the statement is followed and complied with.
Owner builder WHS responsibilities go further than this, including responsibilities where common plant or equipment are available for use by others and the provision of amenities including toilets, fresh water, shade etc.
When it comes to Work Cover and workers compensation, the regulations are a little confusing. Whilst strictly an insurance issue, it is worth a mention in this post.
As a rule, if you employ contractors, they will be responsible for covering each of their employees. There are however a couple of traps for the owner builder. If a contractor fails to carry sufficient appropriate work cover for their staff, you could be responsible. Additionally, if you employ a person on an hourly rate for labour only, it may be deemed that you are the employer and responsible for the worker compensation coverage for this person.
This is a short discussion only and an insight into the responsibilities and legal obligations of an Owner Builder in respect to WHS.
We cover this topic in detail in each of our owner builder courses and offer General Safety Induction Training at a discounted rate to our students.
Happy Owner Building
Owner Builder Project Management
This blog is all about the importance of employing sound Project Management principles and techniques in the running of your owner builder project.
As with all areas of building and construction, knowledge is power. The more knowledge and skills you can develop, the greater your chance of being a successful owner builder.
Whilst we provide a good basic education on Project Management principles, we are limited by the time available in the courses we offer. I know we go way above and beyond what is mandated in the various owner builder course requirements, but I would encourage you not to leave it at that.
Strive to learn as much as you can about Project Management and it will pay big dividends. These benefits will be realised not only in your owner builder activities, but generally in the way you conduct business and your personal life.
Project Management is all about being organised and recognising the relationships between the various activities we engage in on a day to day basis.
The relationship between these activities or tasks as they are most normally referred to in the Project Management discipline are known as dependencies.
A dependency may be a start start, start end or end start relationship. That is, often a task may not be able to be either commenced or completed until the related task is at a given point.
We introduce this concept in our Owner Builder Project Management tutorial that remains available to each of our owner builder students. Take the time to review it at various stages of your owner builder project and enhance your learning with further reading on the topic.
Business Balls is a great website resource that provides free reading and information on a range of management topics including Project Management.
Another important concept for the owner builder to grasp is that of establishing Project Milestones.
Project Milestones are identified key target points in your project and are often aligned to the progress payment stages of construction work.
Stages the owner builder may use as milestones in a typical domestic construction project include, Base Stage (slab or flooring system completion), Frame Stage (structural framing competed and certified), Roof On, Lock Up Stage and Practical Completion.
Linking milestones to these stages provides the owner builder a consistent and logical means to measure project progress. Remember, you cannot manage what you cannot measure.
The benefits for an owner builder of managing and documenting (recording) a project in this way are numerous.
It provides an opportunity to manage project disruption and delays as well as identifying potential block points and project funding requirements.
Remember, if you have questions about Project Management and its relevance to owner builders, we are always happy to provide advice through our online forums or replies to comments on the blog.
Owner Builders need to be aware of their requirements and obligations when it comes to contracts.
Domestic building contracts are governed by the relevant state legislation and they do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Our advice to our owner builder students is to always establish a contract for any works over a value of $1000.00. In some states, this is mandatory.
A contract does not need to be complex or wordy, but it must clearly detail the works to be carried out, the value of the contracted works and the terms of payment.
For minor works a hand written simple contract is enough to satisfy the requirements, but it must accurately represent the expectations of the client and the obligations of the provider.
Larger contracts may best be handled by using a readily available standard form such as those produced and offered by the Housing Industry of Australia (HIA) or similar industry groups.
Owner Builders will benefit from having a standard layout for all their contracted works which provide the opportunity to specify scope of works, deposits, progress claims, final payments and any retentions or warranties that apply.
Contracts may be developed from and reference the working drawings (approved plans), the specifications and any other associated tender documents.
Remember to be a valid contract that suits a typical owner builder project, there are certain elements that must be included. They must be signed by both parties (owner builder and the contractor) provide license and insurance details of the contractor and reference any certifications or inspections that apply to the works in respect to compliance. (eg waterproofing, electrical, plumbing etc)
We cover these elements in the owner builder course and the Abacus Owner Builder Study Guides.
Remember, we are here to assist and we have a range of resources available and accessible to all our owner builder students.
I have just had a student tell me how much they enjoyed the Owner Builder Course, but was surprised that it did not cover several important areas of consideration for NSW Owner Builders.
One of the ares she mentioned was Insurance.
It is an interesting observation, and one that I felt required some clarification.
Up until two years ago, the NSW Department of Fair Trading, required in the learning content, a section on insurance, including the relevance of Public Liability, Workers Compensation. Builders All Risk and Home Warranty Insurance in respect to owner builder works.
Despite enormous protestation from myself, they have dropped this and other important areas such as contracts and legislation from the required learning.
Queensland through the QBCC have shown a better appreciation of the required skills and knowledge and retained these areas of study in their course.
Abacus Training recognises the need to provide this education and cover these topics. That is why we include this in your reference materials, supporting documentation, resources and Owner Builder manual.
You will not be assessed on this knowledge, but all the information is there.
Remember, we are not just about ticking a box to get your Statement of Attainment, we want to provide you the best opportunity to be successful as an owner builder.
That requires us to provide information and support over and above what the Department of Fair Trading mandates as the course materials.
And imagine, there are companies out there who still tell you that you can complete the educational requirements of an owner builder course in three hours!
I would not like to be committing my hard earned to a project like building or renovating without being adequately informed and prepared, would you?
To me, there are two reasons to become and owner builder.
Firstly it is the overall experience and the satisfaction you can get from being able to say "I built that!"
Secondly, is the obvious potential to save money.
It is possible to save a considerable amount of money by being an owner builder.
You should be able to save at least the builders margins which can run at around 20% on most standard domestic construction projects.
These savings are made through buying well and 'haggling' with suppliers to get the best possible price.
This may sound easy, but it requires discipline.
Abacus Training is here to help you to stay disciplined throughout our owner builder project, give you access to the required knowledge and provided you with easy to use tools to track and manage your project.
Tools we provide include the Tendering documents and templates included in our Owner Builder Project Management System.
We are working on video tutorials that will better explain the use of the templates and support the information provided in the course notes.
Tendering and letting of the major contracts for the works you are going to 'let out' to appropriately qualified trade contractors is possibly the most important function you will undertake as an Owner Builder.
Being organised and having a plan to manage the tendering process is key:
You will need to:
Owner building is a lot of commonsense. Couple this with a good system, education and discipline and the owner builder experience should be very rewarding.
Rick Heaton is a Building and Construction Industry professional with formal tertiary qualifications in management and training.