Responsibility during building and civil engineering work
When you work at a construction site, it almost always means that there are several different companies working side by side. The work often needs to be coordinated so that one does not create risks for each other. There are therefore special regulations for construction sites where more than one employer can have work environment responsibility.
Work environment responsibility at the construction site
These rules are fundamentally common to the entire EU but can differ on some points, because each country has the right to expand them where necessary. Keep in mind that the employer responsibility is always fundamental for everyone’s planning of a safe construction site.
In general it is the developer (the party commissioning the work), the project leaders Bas-P (building work environment co-ordinator for planning and design) and Bas-U (building work environment co-ordinator for execution) that have a certain work environment responsibility within the framework of their working tasks. The developer always has a so-called ’backup’ responsibility to make sure that everyone carries out their work environment tasks. To aid him or her, the client should appoint competent Bas-P and Bas-U who coordinate the common work environment management throughout the entire construction process, from beginning to end.
Some clients do not wish to retain this responsibility, and then there is a possibility for them to instead appoint a client's delegee who thus replaces the client in this role.
The increased responsibility of the developer (party commissioning the work) for the work environment is unique to construction and civil engineering work, that is to say all work that is covered by the provisions for building and civil engineering work (AFS 1999:3Eng). An equivalent does not exist for parties commissioning work in other sectors.
The employer's responsibility
Every employer has a work environment responsibility for their own staff. The responsibility always applies, irrespective of whether the work is carried out at a construction site or at the company.
When work is carried out outside the ordinary workplace, such as at a construction site, and where there is perhaps no supervision from the company, it is even more important that everyone knows who one should contact in different situations. It is important that all staff know who is responsible for the work environment and to whom they should turn with different questions about the work environment
The employer has the primary responsibility and should, together with employees and safety representatives, draw up procedures to ensure a good work environment. The employer should carry out the measures necessary to prevent the employees from being affected by accidents or illness. This responsibility applies irrespective of whether the work is carried out at a construction site or at the employer’s permanent workplace.
Systematic work environment management
Basic work environment management is called systematic work environment management. Systematic work environment management is, in short, about procedures to investigate, risk-assess, fix and check the work environment. Here you can read about the employer’s responsibility and about systematic work environment management.
At the construction site, every employer should carry out a risk assessment for their work, partly for the risks that can affect both their own and others’ employees, partly the risks that only affect their own staff. In the risk assessment, one should describe the risks and how one can prevent them.
The risk assessments should be given to the building work environment coordinator for execution (Bas-U) who coordinates, assesses and plans so that the work follows the work environment regulations, and does not create risks for each other. The employer should make sure that the employee receives instructions to prevent risks both in their own and in adjacent work. At the same time, every employer should see that the construction site’s common work environment plan is presented to their own staff.
The employer’s responsibility always remains in every company/employer at a collective construction site, even though there is a building work environment coordinator. When it comes to temporary workers, special rules apply.
Responsibility for temporary workers
In the building sector it is common that an employer can have a workforce that consists of their own staff, hired agency workers and self-employed staff (F-tax registration). In these cases it is particularly important to have clear management so that one’s own staff as well as agency workers know what applies in different situations, and who one should contact.
Responsibility for the employer who hires temporary workers can be compared with the responsibility one has for one’s own workers, with some exceptions.
Those who hire in or hire out their staff in the construction sector should consider that many working tasks within the sector have requirements for specialised documented knowledge, training certificates, medical check-ups, and many other things that must be completed before the staff can be hired out or in. It is therefore important that those hiring temporary staff carry out checks and come to an agreement about what the current work demands, and make sure to hand over the necessary background documentation.
The client's responsibility
The client, that is to say the party who arranges for building or civil engineering work to be carried out, has the fundamental responsibility of seeing that everyone thinks about the work environment during the different construction stages. In practice, this means that the client appoints a building work environment coordinator for planning and design (Bas-P) and one for execution, Bas-U. The client must see to it that Bas-P and Bas-U are knowledgeable and have experience of the current work.
Together with the building work environment coordinators, the client has responsibility for work environment questions being taken into consideration during the entire project.
The client is responsible for:
- making sure that important factors for the work environment are monitored during both the planning and design stage, and for the usage stage in the completed building
- prior notification is sent to the Swedish Work Environment Authority (applies to construction sites of a certain size)
- the work environment plan is drawn up before the construction site is established
- building work environment coordinators, Bas-P and Bas-U
- following up work environment tasks that Bas-P and Bas-U should do throughout all the stages of the construction (backup responsibility).
If the developer does not make sure that there is a work environment plan when the construction site is established, they can have to pay a sanction fee.
The client can, under certain circumstances, hand over all or part of their work environment responsibility. The person who takes over the responsibility is called the client's delegee.
It is important that the client is clear in their tender and procurement contracts about the demands and regulations that apply for work environment and safety.
The client's work environment responsibility also encompasses work environment in the completed building, the usage stage. This responsibility primarily covers spaces necessary for the maintenance of the completed building, for example ventilation rooms, and access to the roof. The client must make sure that there is documentation about the different parts of the building, which has significance for future servicing and maintenance of the building from a work environment perspective. This means, for example, that there should be descriptions and technical drawings about the construction of the building and the material used during the building’s construction.
In practice, many clients are present and influence the planning of several other future workplaces in the building. The client's knowledge about different work environment regulations is therefore very important if they should design and rent premises to others. Read more in the Work Environment Act chapter 3 6 §.
The client's delegee
The client's delegee is a ’substitute’ for a client who does not wish to keep their responsibility according to the Work Environment Act. This means that the client's delegee must carry out all or part of the client's work environment tasks according to a written contract.
For the client to be able to appoint a client's delegee, they must see that they give to the contractor the prerequisites that the task demands, in the form of independence, authority, and resources.
According to the Work Environment Act, a client's delegee can never be appointed in a shared contract or in a contract where the client's delegee is not given the possibility to independently influence the prerequisites for the work environment. In most turnkey and general construction, a client's delegee can be appointed if the task is sufficiently independent and without involvement from the client in questions that affect the work environment and safety.
The client's delegee should, in general, carry out that which the client would normally do. Read more in the Work Environment Act 3 chap 7 c §.
Building work environment co-ordinator (Bas-P and Bas-U)
The building work environment coordinators, Bas-P and Bas-U, are appointed by the client or contractor to coordinate the work environment from start to finish in a construction project. They should, among other things, make sure that there are prerequisites to be able to work safely, and that the different work does not create difficulties for others.
The client (client's delegee) is responsible for Bas-P and Bas-U having the specialised practical and theoretical knowledge demanded by the task. The Bas-P and Bas-U that are appointed can be both legal or natural persons. A natural person is an individual person while a judicial person can be a public limited liability company.
Keep in mind, however, that there can only be one Bas-P or Bas-U at a time in a project.
Bas-P is a building work environment coordinator in the early stage, which is called planning and design. Bas-P should co-ordinate and compile the background material that is drawn up by the different designers (architects, engineers and other technical consultants) as well as planning and designing the project according to work environment and safety. Bas-P should do this in a work environment plan, which must exist before a construction site is established. In practice, this means that Bas-P scrutinises technical drawings and other technical descriptions from the project leaders so that the work can be carried out safely, and that the different types of work do not create risks for each other. These are later compiled as parts in the work environment plan.
A Bas-P who does not make sure that there is work environment plan before a construction site is established can have to pay a sanction fee.
Bas-U is the building work environment co-ordinator during the execution, that is to say the practical construction stage. Bas-U is the person who coordinates the different entrepreneurs’ work in the construction stage so that one entrepreneur does not create risks for another. Bas-U does this through, among other things, organising the safety work.
Bas-U should adapt the work environment plan that Bas-P has drawn up to the practical work. This can entail investigating which working methods or working equipment the contractors use, as well as whether they fulfil our work environment regulations. Bas-U can do this by requesting risk assessments, with descriptions of measures, as background material for their adaptation of the work environment plan. Bas-U is the person who co-ordinates the work so that the work of the different entrepreneurs does not create risks for others.
Bas-U is responsible for the work environment plan being accessible to all at the construction site and that it is up to date at all times with the work that is ongoing. A Bas-U who does not make sure that the work environment plan is accessible to everyone, can have to pay a sanction fee.
At the construction site, the same regulations apply to everyone. There is no exception for those who are self-employed. The self-employed workers should, the same as everyone else, follow the collective work environment plan and submit information about the risks of their work to the building work environment co-ordinator for the execution stage, Bas-U.
It is important that those who are self-employed know in which role the work is carried out. Today it is common that the self-employed are supervised by another entrepreneur and therefore is comparable to temporary staff.
Hiring in staff
If an employee is employed at a company or is self-employed and carries out the work under the supervision of another company, it is to be considered as ’being hired in’.
This means that the company supervising the work is responsible for informing and giving instructions to the temporary staff. It is also important that the party who hired them in or out is informed about the employees’ prerequisites for the current work, for example knowledge and experience. It is particularly important that the hired workers know who they should turn to in different situations.
Hiring out of staff
Within the construction sector, there are several companies who only hire staff out to different construction sites, both Swedish and foreign. It is particularly important that they thoroughly investigate the work their staff will have to perform, and who is the responsible supervisor.
Unfortunately, today we see several examples of unclear structures at many construction sites. It is not uncommon that staff are hired from several different companies and are expected to work side by side without any responsible manager on site. These conditions are, of course, completely unacceptable. Unclear organisation can give rise to an increased risk of accidents. Even a common language between employees and the management can have a decisive significance in some work situations.
Designers and manufacturers
Those who design and shape a part of a building or facility should think about work environment and safety. This means that they must think about how their structures can be built safely.
Practically, this can mean:
- thinking about how the work can be carried out, and with which possible methods
- that there is space to carry out the work and for the material that is needed
- that material can be transported and assembled without manual lifting
- choosing material that is easy to handle and is not heavy
- thinking about what work environment aids there are
- thinking about what working decks and hoisting devices are required and exist for certain work
- making sure the material is not health-endangering
- thinking about which jobs needs to be done at the same time or close to each other
- thinking about stability during construction.
They should also think about how the building or facility must be able to be maintained in the future. This can meant that working areas must exist for future ventilation and electrical work, or that there are stable access routes. The building should also be designed with roof safety devices so that, for example, roofs and chimneys can be inspected safely.
How should a workplace look like?
The provisions about the design of the workplace (AFS 2020:1) describes what applies for, among other things, daylight, lighting, ventilation, noise, flooring and so on. The provisions about working positions and physical loads are also important.
When private persons commission construction work such as turnkey or general contractor, special regulations apply according to the Consumer Services Act. This means that the client's work environment responsibility is automatically taken over by the entrepreneur that does the work, if nothing else is contracted. No written contract is required, just that the entrepreneur can be considered independent.
The scope of the construction work can be anything from small work such as painting, renovating a bathroom, to building an entire house. If the contract is divided, the consumer (private persons) on the other hand, always have the work environment responsibility.
At our workplaces there are more and more entrepreneurs and employees from other countries. Sometimes the employees are employed or hired from a temporary agency by Swedish companies, and sometimes they are posted from a foreign company in order to work in Sweden.
Foreign employees and foreign companies
Many construction sites and construction employers are now going through changes in order to meet the new demands arising, so that they can organise construction work involving many nationalities. Information and knowledge adapted for both foreign companies and foreign workers is necessary. At the same time, more knowledge is needed among those who plan and organise about differences in ’working culture’ and regulations that are applied in Sweden and in other countries. This knowledge is necessary in order to, in the best way, meet the differences that can arise between our established workforce and the new workforce coming here.
There can be other hierarchies between management and employees which mean that, for example, safety rounds do not work the way we are used to, or that the employees are not used to the responsibility that employees often take for their work in Sweden.
Highlight special rules that apply in Sweden
Differences in work environment regulations can also need to be highlighted. Despite there being common minimum levels for several work environment regulations within the EU, there are also differences and lack of knowledge. Every country has the right to create regulations that are stricter than the minimum directive. This sometimes means that some foreign companies and their employees lack knowledge about our special rules in Sweden, which they are actually obliged to know about. There can, therefore, need to be special information about, for example, what we consider to be a risk of falls from height (2 metres and above), our special requirements for inspections of certain machines, our specific demands for documented knowledge and competence in order to be able to carry out certain working tasks (demolishing asbestos, building scaffolds, using hoists, coupling loads, driving, and using certain machines or equipment), and special knowledge and competence for building work environment coordination, medical check-ups for certain work, and so on.
Since 1 July 2013, specific regulations apply for foreign companies who post staff to Sweden.
Read more about posting:
Safer building and civil engineering work - brochures
Last updated 2023-10-30