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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.

For more information on how EVORA EDGE might be able to help you please contact Sadie Hopkins (0)1743 341903 or shopkins@evoraglobal.com

Gaining an EDGE: Engineering and building physics services

At EVORA we know from long experience there is a huge amount of unlocked potential in existing commercial buildings. But we see time and again how the realisation of that potential is so often obstructed by the long and complicated supply chains involved.

That’s why we set up EVORA EDGE, our engineering and building physics team which, in just over two years, has grown to a team of six with further expansion planned this year.

EVORA EDGE allows us to deliver an end-to-end service and provides a solution to the often negative impact that mechanical and electrical teams (M&E) can have on achieving successful sustainability policies.

Traditionally, fund managers will appoint asset managers, who appoint property managers, who appoint M&E consultants, who support the appointment and policing of M&E contractors. This is a long supply chain – from the technical specialists to the decision makers. Unfortunately, in many cases, translation of the technical expertise gets lost along the way.

In our experience, M&E consultants often simply respond to requests at an individual building level, without stopping to think, evaluate and advise on where and how long-term value can be also be added through the day-to-day running and management of a building and portfolio.

The addition of EVORA EDGE to our service seeks to change this. We believe we can better target cost-effectiveness, standardisation and open up opportunities to better support asset improvement in both the short and long-term.

We believe we can better target cost-effectiveness, standardisation and open up opportunities to better support asset improvement in both the short and long-term.

We like to think outside the box.  Whilst we offer standard MEP services, we also believe M&E consultancy teams can offer greater value. We deliver all of the following:

  • Procurement support for M&E contractors
  • Development of M&E replacement plans
  • Project management
  • M&E consulting – the policing role

But we also aim to identify improvements that fit into asset management plans, support client sustainability initiatives and ultimately help protect and enhance asset value for the long-term.

Take a look at some of our case studies and see how the EDGE team might be able to help. For more information contact the EDGE team on 01743 341903 or email info@evoraedge.com


Case studies

  1. Ambitious CO² reduction policy for UK local authority Guildford Borough Council
  2. Sophisticated building modelling reduces overall energy consumption at Broad Quay House
  3. PV systems achieve internal rates of return (IRR) in excess of 6% per building for Aberdeen Standard Investments
  4. Modelling software identifies cost-effective measures for energy efficient refurbishment at Regents House