Duty Calls

Responsibilities and obligations are ramped up in the new CDM Regulations

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 are due to come into force on 6 April this year. The industry will need to get to grips with significant changes, including: dropping of the CDM co-ordinator role; introduction of the role of principal designer; increased client duties; application of the regulations to all construction projects whether or not they are notifiable; and application of the regulations to domestic clients.

The role of CDM co-ordinator will be replaced by the role of principal designer.  Whether or not the project is notifiable, clients will need to appoint a principal designer, who is to have control over the pre-construction phase of the project.  The principal designer will be responsible for planning, managing and monitoring that phase and for co-ordinating matters relating to health and safety during it. The principal designer will also be required to assemble pre-construction information at the outset of the project, prepare the health and safety file and (if still involved at this stage) hand this over to the client at the end of the project. Principal designers will need ‘the understanding and skills to manage and co-ordinate the pre-construction phase, including any design work carried out after construction begins’.

Health and safety designed-in

Changes to the Regulations are intended to put responsibility for the management and co-ordination of health and safety issues at the heart of the design team. Consequently, architects and lead consultants are likely to be asked to take on this role, at least before works start on site.

If they are to be appointed as the principal designer, architects will need to consider how they discharge this responsibility as they may not have the in-house expertise to do so. They will need the skills, knowledge, experience and organisational capacity to fulfil the role. To discharge  obligations as principal designer, architects may consider appointing a health and safety advisor/CDM consultant as a sub-consultant to help discharge obligations as principal designer. On design and build projects, however, clients may considering flipping the role to the main contractor once the main contract is entered into.

Transitional provisions will mean CDM co-ordinators appointed before 6 April 2015 can remain in place on existing projects until either the project comes to an end or 5 October 2015 is reached, whichever is earlier. The role will disappear after this date. A hybrid set of obligations will apply to CDM co-ordinators retained during the transitional period.

CDM 2015 has also ramped up client obligations again. HSE guidance talks about clients taking ownership of these arrangements, and the express reference in the 2007 Approved Code of Practice to the client being able to rely on advice received from the CDM co-ordinator regarding making these arrangements has been removed. The client must also ensure that the health and safety file is produced, rather than the CDM co-ordinator taking sole responsibility for this.

Know your obligations

Although CDM imposes obligations on domestic clients for the first time, these obligations will normally be discharged by designers, contractors and consultants appointed by the client. Architects will therefore need to understand those obligations they are required to carry out for domestic clients.

CDM 2015 is likely to result in architects being required to discharge greater obligations in respect of CDM than they are under CDM 2007. Architects will therefore need to acquaint themselves with the requirements of CDM 2015 and ensure they have adequate resources to discharge them.