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CDM Regulations & their impact on duty holders - Part 1: Clients

14 Jan 2019

The majority of people who are involved in the construction industry will by now hopefully have heard of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – more commonly known as “CDM” that aim to improve the health and safety of construction projects. What many fail to appreciate however is how the CDM impacts duty holders and in particular clients.

Under the CDM there are three primary duty holders:

  • the client – an organisation or individual who the project is carried out for;
  • the principal designer – designers appointed by the client where a project involves more than one contractor; and
  • the principal contractor – contractors appointed by the client to co-ordinate the construction phase of a project where there is more than one contractor.

You would be forgiven for assuming that the client, who may be a layperson, would have the least level of responsibility under the CDM, you would however be wrong. The CDM places the vast majority of responsibility on the client and this stems from the fact clients are the ones commissioning the project and have the resources for the project. A client therefore has overarching responsibility for the health and safety of a project from the planning phase through to completion.

How then can the client ensure they are successfully fulfilling their duties:

  • Ensure that those they propose to appoint are able to demonstrate that they can deliver the project in a way that secures health and safety. They should:
    • Have the necessary capabilities and resources;
    • Have the right blend of skills, knowledge, training and experience;
    • Understand their roles and responsibilities when carrying out the work.
Rebecca Weir
  • Communicate relevant information to the design team to help with design and construction planning;
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that the principal designer is complying with their duties;
  • Not let the construction phase commence until a construction phase plan has been sufficiently developed to ensure suitable health and safety arrangements and rules are in place for the construction phase;
  • Conduct regular site inspections throughout the life of the project to ensure that arrangements made for managing health and safety during construction are working successfully and take  reasonable steps to ensure that the principal contractor is complying with their duties: and
  • At the end of a project the client should be supplied with a health and safety file which contains the information needed to ensure the health and safety of anyone carrying on future building works on the building or structure in question. This file must be passed on or shared if responsibility for the premises changes.

There is scope for clients to instruct a CDM Adviser (CDMA). The CDMA undertakes health and safety duties on the client’s behalf however it should be noted that the CDMA is not a recognised duty holder under the CDM and appointing a CDMA will not equate to client’s discharging their duties.

It is important to note that if the client fails to formally appoint the other duty holders or does not receive their acknowledgment then the client retains responsibility for those roles, this is something often overlooked and where many people will fall foul of the regulations. The HSE has recently (and rightly) been cracking down on non-compliance with health and safety obligations in the construction industry it is therefore imperative that those in the industry understand their obligations and how to comply with them.

If you require assistance with appointment documents for designers and contractors, or for more information on your obligations under the CDM please contact Rebecca Weir.