April 22, 2004
The hats most homeowners have to wear now to formally tour their under-construction home won’t win any fashion awards.
Unless there is a catwalk somewhere where models are jauntily showing off the finest construction hard hats money can buy.
Thanks to some tough new rules imposed on the home construction trade by the provincial government, no one is formally allowed on a home site now unless they sport one of the utilitarian pieces of headgear.
And the only consolation for homeowners gripped with the ever-constant need to be fashionable is that there is a choice of colours.
Ah well, better to have one of them on when a worker accidentally drops a nail from 20 feet above you, says Allan Klassen, president of the Calgary Region Home Builders Assocation (CHBA.)
Klassen said the changes came into effect after the government forced homebuilders to make their workers wear hard hats, safety glasses, steel-toed boots and to attach safety ropes to themselves when working on the roof or other high spots.
Before this year, the mandatory safety hardware only applied to workers on large, commercial construction sites.
Klassen, who is also managing partner and president of Albi Homes Ltd., says his company went one step further by asking homeowners to sign a waiver form and safety contract whereby the customer agrees to follow all the new safety rules and wear appropriate safety gear when visiting the job site.
The contract also stipulates what the government and Albi Home’s safety rules are and that the customer agrees to only visit the construction site on registered walkthroughs.
Not all homebuilders ask their customers to sign such a contract. But the CRHBA is urging all its members to adopt the practice, Klassen said.
“It is a huge transition for the industry,” Klassen says. “The real purpose of this is to save lives. That’s it.
There are other thoughts about saving money on insurance and workers compensation premiums but we have to focus on the real purpose of creating safer worksites for everyone.” Many people don’t understand, Klassen says, that the homebuilder retains responsibility for the safety of everyone on a construction site until the homeowner gets title and keys to the property.
“We are responsible to the end.”
The only exception is when a builder is constructing a home on land owned by the ultimate homeowner. Then the liability shifts to the homeowner.
Most builders have their customers on a construction site about three times. The first homeowner inspection is after the house is framed and all the interior and exterior wall structures are up. The second comes with a tour to inspect the finishing stage where the painting and woodwork are nearly or completely done and the final tour is when everything is complete and just before the homeowner takes occupancy.
On all of these formal tours, Klassen says his company has an employee walk the homeowner through the site to ensure the customer stays out of harm’s way and to ensure the homeowners are wearing company-supplied hard hats and that they are wearing rubber-soled shoes.
There is nothing builders can do, accept tear their hair out, when all-too curious homeowners take clandestine tours of their dream home after all the construction crews have gone home.
“It happens,” Klassen laments.
Costs will rise in the short term due to the increased safety vigilance so consumers won’t see any immediate benefits other than “saving their lives,” Klassen says.
“If anything there will be some increased costs but they will be safe and the people working on the sites will be safe… and that is all anyone should care about.”
And despite the ubiquitous, one-size-fits-all hard hat, the fashion seized might be able to match eye and hat colour.