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12th June 2014

Reforming Construction Safety

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Construction can be risky and dangerous. It’s useful for any property owner considering undertaking construction work to have a grasp of the basics of relevant safety laws. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM Regulations) impose obligations in relation to the carrying out of construction projects and are aimed at ensuring adequate health and safety conditions are operated before, during and after construction on site. The key points of the Regulations are set out below, along with the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) proposals for reform.

The current CDM Regulations

The CDM Regulations apply to “construction work” (including design and preparation work) on any scale, from major infrastructure projects to small-scale redecoration and maintenance. Whether works relate to a new-build property, a renovation, maintenance or redecoration, the CDM Regulations must be complied with.

The CDM Regulations impose separate obligations on clients, designers and contractors. Where the project will last for longer than 30 days (or 500 person days), a CDM Co-ordinator and a Principal Contractor must be appointed and the project must be reported to the HSE.

Domestic clients having work done on their own home or that of a family member and not having the work undertaken in the course of a business are exempted under the Regulations. However, consultants and contractors involved in such projects will still be subject to their own obligations under the Regulations.

The HSE publishes the Accepted Code of Practice (ACoP) that sets out how the CDM Regulations can be complied with.

A breach of the Regulations may give rise to civil liability where injury or damage occurs due to non- compliance and could give rise to a criminal prosecution.


Since 2010 there has been a review of all health and safety legislation in England and Wales. The CDM Regulations have been under the spotlight, including for their impact on small and occasional clients who may be less aware of the requirements. Reforms are also required to comply with the EU’s Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites Directive.

After the production of various independent reports on the Regulations, the HSE launched a consultation in early 2014 on proposed changes. The closing date for the consultation was 6 June and amended regulations are due to come into force in April 2015.

The key proposals are to:

1. Make the Regulations more accessible by simplifying their structure, removing duplication and arranging them so they follow the process of a project.

2. Replace the ACoP with guidance that focuses on outcomes rather than processes, is easier to understand and includes template documents to help small businesses.

3. Replace the role of CDM Co-ordinator (usually a separate external appointment) with a role of “Principal Designer” (to be appointed from the existing project team, as with the Principal Contractor) to allow co-ordination from the very start of a project. The Principal Contractor is currently responsible for compliance with the Regulations during the construction phase of a project, and the new Principal Designer would be responsible for the pre-construction phase.

4. Replace the requirement under the Regulations for those involved with the works to be “competent” with a general requirement to ensure that sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision is made available to allow for a safe working environment. Competence will be the responsibility of professional bodies and institutions.

5. Remove the exemption for domestic clients. Duties that would fall on a domestic client will be the responsibility of the contractor. The domestic client can agree with the Principal Designer (if there is one) that they will fulfil the client’s design responsibilities.

6. Improve co-ordination by requiring a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor to be appointed whenever there is more than one contractor on the project, rather than basing the requirement for appointment on the length of the project.

For more information, please contact Colin Jones or Joanne Gaston on 01223 461155 or to email Colin click here or to email Joanne click here.

For more imformation on our Construction service, click here.

This article was first featured in Business Weekly on May 29 2014, no. 738.