Construction Insurance Tips - Take Care On Basement Conversions

Monday, 28 September 2015, Jon Norman

Construction Insurance Tips - Take Care On Basement Conversions

The ongoing housing shortage and rising house prices has significantly increased the popularity of cellar and basement conversions.  Some of these projects can be quite complex and carry dangerous risks, increasing the potential of Construction Insurance claims.

This exposure has been recognised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who are making strides in terms of increasing health and safety awareness for basement projects, in fact, the HSE has been performing periodic inspection campaigns since 2011.

One Third of Projects Risk Prosecution

The HSE has also reported that more than one-third of projects violate at least one health and safety regulation. Therefore as a manager or owner of a construction firm, you should familiarise yourself with proper construction health and safety procedures and Liability Insurance considerations so you can minimise potential risks to your business, employees and homeowners.

Standard Basement Construction Process

Basement construction commonly consists of a relatively small project that presents risk to the existing structure, the homeowners and your workers. You should rely on the HSE’s guidance to follow the correct procedures before and during the construction process:

Prior To Construction Beginning

  • Hire a temporary works engineer to design and plan the support structures needed to protect the integrity of the home in addition to the well-being of workers and the homeowners.
  • Develop a thorough construction planning document which outlines safe entry and exit points for the workers, where temporary works structures will be installed and the process for removing excavated material.
  • Identify existing underground services — for example plumbing, gas, electrical, telephone lines, and subsequent planning as to how to protect them during construction.
  • Decide what safety measures will need to be implemented, such as whether additional ventilation is necessary, to protect site-workers’ health, which could avoid illness or injury and subsequent employers liability claims.   

During The Construction Phase

  • Install and maintain temporary works structures as per the engineer’s plan. Also, support all sides of the excavation to prevent movement or collapse.
  • Reinforce all entries and exits to the construction site area. This should involve at least securing any ladders to prevent injuries.
  • Erect barriers above ground to bar individuals from falling into the excavation.
  • Ensure that workers are overseen by an experienced supervisor at all times, or the temporary works engineer to avoid any actions that could prove dangerous to the structure, workers or the homeowners.

What Are The Key Risks of Basement Construction?

Despite widely being considered a relatively small construction project, adding a basement to an existing home can present dangerous, or even fatal risks. Improper preparation could lead to the following:

  • The temporary works structures and other structural supports could fail, which could cause extensive damage to the existing structure and injury, or even death, to the individuals in or below the structure.
  • The construction site could lack proper ventilation which could contribute to workers developing respiratory illnesses.
  • The foundation for the entrance and exit to the construction site could fail, which could trap workers and lead to structural damage or injury.
  • The temporary works structures and other structural supports may provide only short-term rather than long-term support, which could cause structural damage well after construction has finished.

Whilst these are some of the largest and most common exposure, there are numerous additional risks which could occur.  Best practice is to implement a specific risk management programme tailored to each project encompassing appropriate risk assessments.  

How To Mitigate Risk

Whilst the risks associated with basement construction have the potential to be severe, both in terms of accident and financially, there some simple methods which you can use to mitigate risk. Consider adding these three risk management strategies to your current Health and Safety and Construction programmes:

#1 Training

Provide your direct employees and any labour only sub-contractors with appropriate training on how to work in enclosed spaces and on small construction sites.  This should include how to work with temporary works structures and existing underground services.

#2 Specialist Roles & Sub-Contractors

If you are employing the services of bona-fide sub-contractors, ensure that they are aware suitably training and qualified for the role.

Hire an experienced temporary works engineer to identify potential structural risks and to develop support structures to neutralise the danger.

#3 Construction Insurance

You should purchase specific Construction Insurance that makes allowance for basement construction projects. This should include the following considerations:

  • Contract works or contractors all risk provides cover for ongoing renovation, extension or other works until completed. Additionally, you can extend cover to include materials on-site and in transit, like site huts, security fencing, tools and equipment.
  • Defects insurance guarantee (DIG) provides cover for underpinning, mini-piling and foundation works.
  • Basement insurance guarantee (BIG) provides cover exclusively for the construction and life of the basement, including all associated structures, such as temporary works.
  • Superstructure cover provides cover for the building above where you are working, so, if your basement project threatens the integrity of the whole building, you are covered. This cover is commonly neglected in basement construction and is essential to protecting your project.

These risk management strategies do not represent a complete list of all the possible strategies, but they do represent those which may be the most beneficial to construction firms.

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You can request a quotation online, alternatively, why not book a free review with one of construction specialists who can help you find the right level of cover at the right price.

About the Author

Jon Norman

Jon Norman

I’m passionate about family, sport, technology and business.

In fact, I have always been fascinated by business, whether it was running the school tuck-shop or my Saturday job in the local store, I was always looking for ways to improve or view things differently.

I have enjoyed an amazing career fast approaching 25 years in the insurance industry, which has given me real insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by SME businesses in today’s ever-evolving marketplace.

I co-founded Insync Insurance, to offer companies a new way to buy and manage their business insurance. A synergy of digital servicing and personal expertise - utilising the latest technology to enhance relationships, not to replace them.

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