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The CDM regulations set out what people involved in construction work need to do to protect themselves from harm as well as anyone the work affects.  The main aim of the regulations is to improve health and safety in the construction sector by requiring those involved to:
  • sensibly plan the work;
  • have the right people for the right job at the right time;
  • co-operate and co-ordinate their work;
  • have the right information about the risks and how they are being managed;
  • communicate this information effectively to those who need to know; and
  • consult and engage with workers about the risks and how they are being managed.

The regulations direct the way health, safety and welfare should be managed during 'construction work'. The definition given by the regulations for 'construction work' is very broad, so it covers anything from home maintenance work to the building of new commercial premises or a civil engineering project, as well as , alterations, conversions and renovations, repairs, upkeep and redecoration, and the de-commissioning, demolition or dismantling of a structure.

Various aspects of construction work are covered, including working conditions (i.e. lighting, temperature, air quality and so on), security, structural stability, materials, equipment, traffic, emergencies and fire and explosion hazards.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) came into force in Great Britain on 6 April 2015, replacing the previous regulations, CDM 2007.

Each and every individual involved in a project, including the client, has duties set out by CDM to ensure health and safety.

Below we have outlined briefly some of the main responsibilities of relevant ‘duty holders’ involved in construction projects. Consult the regulations for more details, or read the guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as well as that of relevant and reputable industry bodies, including the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

The client is whoever the work is being carried out for, whether that’s an individual, organisation or non-commercial group. CDM applies to both domestic and commercial clients.

commercial client is an organisation or individual that a construction project is being carried out for in connection with a business, whether the business operates for profit or not, so they might be a school, a retailer, a landlord, or a charitable company.

Commercial clients are required to make suitable arrangements for managing a project; this includes ensuring:

  • other duty holders are appointed as appropriate;
  • enough time and resources are allocated;
  • relevant pre-construction information is prepared and provided;
  • the principal contractor (or contractor, for single contractor projects) prepares a construction phase plan before the construction phase begins;
  • the principal designer prepares a health and safety file;
  • the HSE are notified if the project will last longer than 30 working days and involves more than 20 workers at any one time; or where the work exceeds 500 individual worker days.

domestic client is someone having work carried out which is not connected to the running of a business or organisation. Usually, this means arranging for work to be carried out on the property where they or a family member lives.

In the scope of CDM 2015, domestic client duties are normally transferred to the contractor (for single contractor projects) or the principal contractor (for projects with more than one contractor). Alternatively, if a domestic client has appointed an architect or other designer on a project involving more than one contractor, they can ask them to manage the project and take on the client duties instead of the principal contractor. The designer then takes on the responsibilities of principal designer and must have a written agreement with the domestic client, confirming they have agreed (as principal designer) to take on client duties as well as their own.

On a construction project, a designer is an organisation or individual that prepares or modifies a design for any part of a construction project (including temporary works), or who arranges or instructs someone else to do it. This therefore can include architects, consulting engineers, chartered surveyors, interior designers and technicians. In some cases, the commercial clientprincipal contractor or other duty holder may also fulfil the role of designer.

They need to ensure that when preparing or modifying designs they eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction or during the maintenance and use of a building once it is built.

Designers must therefore:

  • make sure their client is aware of their duties under CDM 2015 before starting any design work.
  • communicate, co-operate and co-ordinate with any other designers and contractors.
  • provide information to other members of the project team to help them fulfil their duties.

principal designer is appointed by the client to take control of the pre-construction phase of any project involving more than one contractor and have an important role as key influencer for the management of health and safety risks throughout the project.

Principal designers must:

  • plan, manage, monitor and co-ordinate health and safety in the pre-construction phase;
  • help and advise the client in bringing together pre-construction information, and provide this to designers and contractors;
  • work with any other designers on the project to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable health and safety risks to anyone affected by the work;
  • liaise with the principal contractor, keeping them informed of any risks that need to be controlled during the construction phase. 

The principal contractor is the contractor in overall charge of the construction phase. They are appointed by the client and there should only be one principal contractor for a project at any one time. For single contractor projects, that contractor takes on the duties of the principal contractor.

The principal contractor must be capable of carrying out the role and have the right skills, knowledge, training and experience to carry out the work safely. They are required to plan, manage, monitor and co-ordinate health and safety in the construction phase of a project, their duties including:

  • liaising with the client and principal designer;
  • preparing a construction phase plan before the construction phase begins, ensuring it is implemented, regularly reviewed and revised to make sure it remains fit for purpose;
  • organising co-operation between contractors and co-ordinating their work.

The principal contractor must also ensure that:

  • suitable site inductions are provided;
  • reasonable steps are taken to prevent unauthorised access;
  • anyone they appoint has the skills, knowledge and experience to carry out their work safely;
  • workers are consulted and engaged in securing their health and safety;
  • welfare facilities are provided.
They will normally take on domestic clients’ duties (in addition to their own), unless there is a written agreement stating otherwise.
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contractor is anyone who directly employs or engages construction workers, or who manages construction work. Sub-contractorsindividual self-employed workers and businesses that carry out, manage or control construction work share the same duties as contractors.

Contractors on all projects must:

  • plan, manage and monitor construction work under their control so it is carried out without risks to health and safety;
  • check that all workers they employ or appoint have the skills, knowledge, training and experience to carry out the work;
  • make sure that all their workers have a suitable site-specific induction, unless this has already been provided by the principal contractor;
  • provide appropriate supervision, information and instructions to their workers.

For projects involving more than one contractor, they must coordinate their activities with others in the project team and comply with directions given to them by the principal designer or principal contractor. For single contractor projects they will need to prepare a construction phase plan before work starts.

worker is anyone working for or under the control of a contractor on a construction site. Plumbers, electricians, scaffolders, painters, decorators, steel erectors and labourers, as well as supervisors like foremen and chargehands all fall under the definition of ‘worker’.

They must:

  • be consulted about matters which affect their health, safety and welfare;
  • take care of their own health and safety, as well as that of others who might be affected by their actions;
  • report anything they see which is likely to endanger either their own or others’ health and safety;
  • always follow site rules and procedures; and
  • co-operate with their employer, fellow workerscontractors and other duty holders.