Health and Safety: The legal risks of ignoring it on small projects
Despite having been introduced four years ago, there is still limited understanding in the building services sector of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) and the new obligations it has placed on building owners.
The 2015 regulations switched the balance of responsibility for health and safety from a CDM co-ordinator (a role which has now been abolished) to those paying for the works (ie clients). This places direct responsibility on property owners and landlords.
Anyone who has any kind of construction work carried out for them is considered ‘clients’ and are held legally responsible for ensuring every project, undertaken on their behalf, is suitably managed and ensures the health and safety of all those engaged on the project, as well as the members of the public.
CDM 2015 applies in every circumstance, whether it is a category A or B refurbishment or even just the ongoing maintenance of facilities, including remedial repair works.
A refurbishment project doesn’t have to involve any structural changes for CDM to apply. In short, CDM applies to every aspect of works being carried out on a property.
The fines for non-compliance are unlimited and directors can be jailed.
As an example, in 2016 a construction company was removing a roller shutter door on the boundary of a site and in the process, the door fell onto the pavement and badly damaged a market stall. The principal contractor was fined £45K for a CDM breach after the HSE’s investigation found:
- there was no risk assessment for the task of removing the roller shutter door
- the site manager was not on site when the incident occurred meaning there was no supervision of the workers
- the site issues could have been rectified by appropriately planning, managing and monitoring the construction work.
It’s also worth remembering that the obligations apply to the design stage of works as well as actual construction. In fact, the creation of a ‘principal designer’ role in the regulations is supposed to ensure health and safety planning is an integral part of the design stage.
So who is responsible for what under CDM 2015?
Virtually everyone involved in a construction project has legal duties which can be defined as follows:
- Client– Anyone who has construction work carried out for them. The main duty for clients is to make sure their project is suitably managed, ensuring the health and safety of all who might be affected by the work, including members of the public.
- Principal designer – A designer appointed by the client to control the pre-construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal designer’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase when most design work is carried out.
- Designer – An organisation or individual whose work involves preparing or modifying designs, drawings, specifications, bills of quantity or design calculations. Designers can be architects, consulting engineers and quantity surveyors, or anyone who specifies and alters designs as part of their work. They can also include tradespeople if they carry out design work. The designer’s main duty is to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction work, or in the use and maintenance of the building once built. Designers work under the control of a principal designer on projects with more than one contractor.
- Principal contractor – A contractor appointed by the client to manage the construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal contractor’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase when all construction work takes place.
- Contractor – An individual or business in charge of carrying out construction work (e.g. building, altering, maintaining or demolishing). Anyone who manages this work or directly employs or engages construction workers is a contractor. Their main duty is to plan, manage and monitor the work under their control in a way that ensures the health and safety of anyone it might affect (including members of the public). Contractors work under the control of the principal contractor on projects with more than one contractor.
- Worker – An individual who carries out the work involved in building, altering, maintaining or demolishing buildings or structures. Workers include plumbers, electricians, scaffolders, painters, decorators, steel erectors and labourers, as well as supervisors like foremen and chargehands. Their duties include cooperating with their employer and other duty holders, reporting anything they see that might endanger the health and safety of themselves or others. Workers must be consulted on matters affecting their health, safety and welfare.
Architects and engineers are often reluctant to take on the role of principal designer under the regulations because of a lack of expertise in the area of health and safety. At EVORA EDGE we are skilled mechanical, electrical and public health consultants able to take on the principal designer role and ensure health and safety is an integral part of all planned and designed works.
Take a look at our work acting in the principal designer role during the implementation of a large scale photovoltaic installation across multiple buildings in the UK, here.