Renovating an Italian property. Health and safety law
Who is liable for compliance with safety requirements on home renovations in Italy?
In the case of even minor construction work the, “works manager” is responsible for safety. This is usually an architect, engineer or designer. However, if the owner of a property directly procures the services of a worker, the homeowner is acting as the works manager.
This means that the homeowner is responsible for safety. Likewise if there is an accident, the homeowner is liable to criminal and civil consequences.
Imagine you hire a plasterer to render a wall and the plasterer falls off a ladder. Or, you find an electrician to rewire your property and the electrician gets electrocuted.
You, as the homeowner, are liable. Even if you are not around at the time of the accident. As the legal owner of the property, in the eyes of the law, you are the employer of the injured worker.
The risk of criminal and civil prosecution
Your liability for the accident is not only of a criminal nature, for culpable injuries caused to the worker, but also of a civil nature.
In other words, you may be liable to pay compensation. Compensation for a broken limb can amount to several thousand euros. In a worst-case scenario, compensation may be enough to see your property seized.
This is a very intricate legal issue based on technicalities regulated by Italian law. If you are planning refurbishment work on your property in Italy, make sure you meet safety requirements.
When planning refurbishment works, such as renovations or painting, you are legally responsible for ensuring safety requirements.
Italian law takes the view that anyone regarded as, “non-professional”, such as a homeowner, who procures the services of a third party to carry out any type of home improvement, is responsible for ensuring that workers operate in accordance with health and safety legislation.
Safety requirements. A case study
Recently, the Supreme Court examined an appeal filed by a homeowner plaintiff who had commissioned a construction company to paint the exterior walls of a cottage. During the work, a painter fell through a hole in the paving. The painter fell several metres into the basement and tragically later died. The hole that caused the accident had previously been covered with boards. However, the boards had been removed by another worker and replaced with polystyrene, which was not strong enough to bear the weight of the painter.
The court of appeal upheld previous rulings which established that the homeowner had a duty of care in relation to the execution of the contract. In this case, the court identified several failures. In the first instance, the absence of a risk assessment plan. Secondly, a lack of maintenance on walkway around the cottage and risks posed by the opening into the basement. Thirdly the court considered that there had been a failure to supervise and inform workers at the property.
Safety requirements are an employer’s responsibility
The court found the homeowner at fault for these failures. Safety obligations are the exclusive competence of an employer, who in this case was the homeowner. In effect, the homeowner was acting as the painter’s employer. While the work was of a “domestic” nature, the court found that the homeowner was not exempt from performing the duties of works manager. In other words the accident occurred because of the homeowner’s failure to take responsibility for his employee’s safety. And the homeowner’s negligence to act in the role as designated works manager.
In cases such as this, it is, therefore, crucial to underline the homeowner’s obligation to point out any dangers on site and wherever possible, to provide for their elimination before work starts. Unless a homeowner can prove they exercised a duty of care and took all measures to provide a safe working environment, they will be held liable.
Health and safety requirements in Italian building contracts
When a homeowner engages a contractor, it is important to have a written contract. This should indicate that compliance with safety regulations is the contractor’s responsibility. This way it becomes clear, from a legal point of view, that the contractor is responsible for safety on home renovations in Italy.
Whether you are building a new property in Italy, or renovating an existing Italian property, having the right building contract is vital to ensure that everyone involved knows their rights and responsibilities.
De Tullio Law Firm is a legal firm present throughout Italy. We have over 55 years of specialist experience dealing with issues related to property, construction and renovation matters. If you are thinking of undertaking building or refurbishment on your property in Italy, or if you are in a difficult situation concerning liabilities and safety requirements through refurbishment work, we are here to help. Get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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