The Property Blog

The truth about what's happening in property right now

The good, the bad and the ugly

Health & Safety for Small Developers

Nov 05, 2022
Health and Safety for Small Developers


One of the biggest challenges small developers face when starting out is health and safety. Get this bit wrong and it won’t matter how well your deal stacked. Best case scenario you’ll get a notice and a fine from HSE and worst case you’ll be behind bars, wondering where it all went wrong.

Think I’m exaggerating? I know people this has happened to. That’s why I enrolled on an SMSTS course three years’ ago and continue to send my staff on them to keep up to date with the latest legislation.


Here’s what you need to know about health and safety if you’re developing and renovating property from a man in the know. Marvin Owen, director of MBO Safety Services was my teacher and acts as a consultant on all of my projects.


Q. How seriously should small property developers (renovating one or two houses per year) take health and safety? What is the minimum they should have in place in terms of paperwork? 

A. There is no different standard for small building companies to large ones. In fact, the HSE are more likely to visit a small site than a large development, as the chance of injury is higher. The reason being most big development companies have health and safety in place.


Q. What onsite facilities should we be providing for small developments?  

 A. The minimum welfare standards in the CDM Regulations are;

  • Hot and cold running water
  • A place to eat and prepare hot food
  • Somewhere to change clothes
  • Toilet

In other words, every development should provide a canteen and full welfare facilities, not just a portable loo!


Q. What is the punishment if they are caught not doing this?

A. The minimum would be an improvement or prohibition notice.

For the officer to issue an improvement notice there must be a breach of the law, for a prohibition notice, the officer just must feel there is a dangerous situation.

Both come with fees for intervention, and I would expect a minimum charge of £500 to £1000 per notice. It is worth noting that a fine in court is based on turnover and profits, so with developers turning over large sums, due to house prices, I am yet to see a fine under £100,000!

Q. What is the difference in expectation from HSE between a development site of say 30 houses and the renovation of one house? 

A. None, health and safety require the same standards, however if the house was being done by one person there is less requirement due to there being no other people who can be injured. This of course still would include visitors, public and trespassers. 


Q. Does it make a difference if you are a ltd company or sole trader what the health and safety requirements are?  

A. No, not at all, the only difference would be on fines, as a limited company pays the fine, the sole trader would have to pay the fine and this may include personal assists. 

Q. When hiring individual trades (like a plumber) for renovation projects, who is responsible for health and safety of that trade on site? 

A. Everyone, including the sole trader for himself and others but the main duty falls with Principal Contractor who has to a duty of care under The Construction Design and Management Regulations for everyone affected by the site works. There must be a Principal Contractor if there is more than one contractor on site.


Q. What are the minimum health and safety documents property developers should ask trades for before contracting them on a small development site/renovation project? 


  • ​Risk Assessments specific to task signed by all people 
  • Method Statements specific to all tasks signed by all people
  • Training on key area, asbestos if working in building before 2000
  • Manual Handling
  • Working at Heights
  • Health and safety awareness, not CSCS this is not training
  • Training on equipment
  • Equipment checks, PAT testing etc

Q. What else do you think that small property investors and developers should know about health and safety? ​ 

A. The site needs to be managed, water suspension or extraction on tools which create dust, Face fitting for any RPE, walkways and vehicle separation where possible. Site inspections to show areas are being addressed.  


Contact MBO Safety Services on 080000 842 297 or email [email protected] to find out more.


Get smarter about PROPERTY 

Join 1000+ subscribers and get our 3 min weekly newsletter on what matters in property.

Read by property developers, investors, landlords, and estate agents