B. The role of the building industry
Although the structure of the building industry varies greatly from country to country and according to the type of building activity, it is convenient in considering roles and responsibilities to identify four separate groups involved, namely building owners, building designers, builders or building contractors, and the producers of building materials. Each of these groups has a part to play in the mitigation of the health hazards discussed.
Action by building materials’ manufacturers
Materials’ manufacturers have a duty of care both to the workers who are employed in the manufacturing process itself and to those who subsequently use the materials which they produce. The principal responsibilities of building materials manufacturers with regard to the use of the materials which they produce and supply are:
• to investigate the health risks associated with all ingredients or components of the materials which they supply;
Action by designers
Although they are not normally held responsible by law for the health of the buildings they design, the designers nevertheless have a key role to play. By specifying the materials and the surface treatments to be used, they have the opportunity to make sure that construction workers and occupants are not avoidably subjected to exposure to toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials. By the design of the indoor environment they also can make sure that concentrations of hazardous substances do not accumulate, and that adequate provision for ventilation is made.
The responsibilities of designers include:
• to acquire, and update, an awareness of the environmental and health impacts of the materials which they specify;
Action by building owners
The building owner is responsible for planning the overall project, and providing the briefing for the design team, for commissioning the building, and for overseeing; its subsequent use, including periodic maintenance, refurbishment and possibly eventual demolition. It is in these activities that some of the most critical decisions affecting the health of workers and occupants are taken.
The responsibilities of building owners include:
• to develop the brief, and specify overall standards of health protection which the design team should aim for;
Action by builders and building contractors
Many of the most serious building material-related hazards are those to which the construction workers are exposed to during construction, maintenance, refurbishment and demolition activities. Responsible builders will in most cases be aware of these hazards, and take steps to protect themselves and their workforce. Legal requirements for the control of hazardous substances will increasingly require them to do so.
The responsibilities of builders include:
• to be aware of all hazardous substances which are to be used in the work, and of the recommended safe practice;
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