Policy clarification: Information for people building their own home

The primary piece of legislation governing work health and safety in New Zealand is the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).

Key points

  • If you are having a home built for you, or are building one yourself, you will be a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU) while the home is being built.
  • This requires you to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and that others are not put at risk by this work.
  • In general, WorkSafe New Zealand does not expect you to have detailed knowledge of the risks involved in construction  work.
  • In most cases, you can meet your obligations as a PCBU by engaging a builder or a project manager.

Policy clarifications set out WorkSafe’s  view  of HSWA in relation to a clearly defined sector, a particular set of circumstances, or a specific function.

This policy clarification sets out WorkSafe’s view of the health and safety duties of a residential landowner building their own home who:

  • engages contractors or a project manager to build a house
  • is doing most of the work themselves to build a house with minimal input from contractors or
  • is having a house built for sale.

What does the law say?

A ‘PCBU’ is a person conducting a business or undertaking, whether alone or with others, and whether or not it is conducted for profit or gain. You are considered to be a PCBU because you are conducting an undertaking in a place where work is being carried out. As a PCBU, you have a duty of care towards workers and other persons in or near the building site. You won’t be the only PCBU involved  in the build; contractors and project managers will in most cases also be PCBUs and they also owe duties of care.

Even if you are doing most of the building work yourself, you are still a PCBU.

When construction is finished and you move in, you will be an occupier of a home and no longer be a PCBU when you engage others to carry out work there.

As the health and safety regulator, we want PCBUs to fulfil their obligations so that risks in the workplace are identified and effectively managed. To help achieve this objective, we want to ensure that you understand your responsibilities  under HSWA.

What are your responsibilities as a PCBU?

Engaging contractors to construct your home

As an owner of residential land, we generally do not expect you to have an in-depth knowledge of the risks involved in construction. In most cases, you can meet your obligations by engaging suitable contractors to do the work. Such contractors will themselves be PCBUs, and will be better placed to ensure that there are appropriate health and safety measures on site. In these circumstances, it is reasonable for you to expect these contractors to ensure that health and safety requirements are met.

We expect that in most cases, keeping up to date with what’s happening on site and cooperating with the PCBUs there (e.g. following reasonable instructions) will be sufficient.

Project managing construction of your home

If you are acting as a project manager for the construction of your home, you will have a duty to consult, cooperate, and coordinate activities with other PCBUs  on  your  building  site.  In  these  circumstances, you may need to make sure health and safety processes are implemented. You may need to discuss with your contractors on an ongoing basis how health and safety will be managed on your building site.

Undertaking renovations after you’ve moved in

If you employ a contractor to undertake further work, your home becomes a ‘workplace’ for the duration of this work. Under HSWA you will be an ‘other person at the workplace’. You will not be a PCBU when this work is being undertaken.

This means that you must take reasonable care to keep yourself safe and to ensure you don’t put others at risk by your actions or inactions. You must also comply with any reasonable instructions from the PCBUs on site.

Further information

For more information see our building and construction industry guidance.