May 14, 2018
Unless you’re a skilled tradesman yourself, there is a very good chance you will hire someone to carry work out on your home; whether it’s the simple task of installing some book shelves or as complex as repairing the roof. But when it comes to hiring someone, how much thought do you give to their safety?
The assumption is that tradespeople work for themselves, or a company, so they’re the ones responsible for their own health and safety, but is this always the case? And can your actions influence it?
How can you be liable for their injury?
It seems absurd that you might be responsible for the actions of someone else on your property, and in the UK, for example, courts are reluctant to place blame on property owners unless they have clearly had an influence on the accident.
So, if you hire someone to do some work in your attic and they bring all of their own equipment, set it up themselves, and then fall from the hatch and injure themselves; you have no responsibility for that series of events, and therefore no liability. However, if you hire someone to work in your attic, provide a ladder for them, set it up for them, and then they fall and injure themselves, you may be responsible for their accident and therefore they may be able to make a claim against you.
Even if all of the events took place as described in the second scenario, you might still be safe from a claim. There are other questions that will be asked such as – was the ladder set up safely? Was it used correctly by the tradesperson? Did the tradesperson adjust it in anyway themselves?
Some issues might not be as straightforward as a fall from a ladder. Asbestos is a big issue in homes across the country, and those involved in building or renovating homes are now leading the way with rates of asbestos-related illness.
Am I liable for asbestos in my home?
There are no regulations that state you must handle asbestos in your home in a particular way, but you must inform anyone who is buying the house from you of its presence and inform any tradespeople working on your home where it is as well; if you do not, you may open yourself up to legal action. In particular, contactor and tradespeople are facing higher rates of asbestos-related illness which may make them more like to use an asbestos solicitor. However, these cases are usually only against employers.
Am I covered by my home insurance?
As long as you have home insurance that includes Public Liability you should be protected from the costs of anyone bringing a claim against you. The main reason someone might try to claim against you is that their employer doesn’t have appropriate insurance (even though that is illegal) or they are self-employed. Most solicitors won’t pursue a case against you if you don’t have insurance, as you wouldn’t be able to pay fees or damages.
What can I do to protect myself?
When hiring someone, ask what insurance they have – if they have none or seem uncertain as to what their insurance covers look for someone else, as lack of company insurance makes you the next in line for anyone looking to claim.
Do not lend or set up equipment for tradespeople – this might be quite difficult in some circumstances, so at a minimum, ensure they set up anything you lend to them and that any items they use that belong to you are in good working order.
If you suspect asbestos, get a survey – suspecting asbestos in your home is admittedly different to knowing, and that could be enough to protect you, but not knowing can also put your health at risk. Removal of the material is actually the last step a company will take, as sealing it is preferred to disturbing it. The worst thing to do is to leave the suspect material and allow it to become more damaged.
Do you have any other questions about tradespeople in your home? What are your experiences of accidents during renovation work?