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Health and safety on construction projects – What do I need to do?

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David Edwards, head of the Regulatory and Compliance team at Harrison Drury, gives an overview of recent developments around the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) and what this could mean for your construction activity.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulates work health and safety and believe that everyone has the right to return home “safe and well from their job”. The HSE have legal powers of inspection, to ensure serious risks are managed sensibly.

However, the HSE is attempting to change the emphasis within the construction industry with regard to health and safety. It is adopting more of a proactive approach with a greater emphasis on health issues, improvement of safety through good design, and encouragement of individuals to take ownership of their health and safety.

CDM Regulations

The Construction (Design Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) have applied to all construction work in Great Britain since 6 April 2015, and affect almost every construction, engineering or development project, regardless of size and whether it is a domestic project.

The CDM Regulations are designed to assist key parties throughout construction projects to ensure the management of health and safety on site and impose duties on five key parties, referred to as duty holders:

  • Client – a party having construction/engineering works and services carried out as part of their business or on their own home;
  • Principal Designer – typically the architect on projects involving more than one contractor;
  • Designer – a party preparing or modifying a design;
  • Principal Contractor – typically ‘main’ contractors; and
  • Contractors – parties carrying out the actual construction work.

The requirements placed on the duty holders mean that they should take into account the ‘general principles of prevention’ in the performance of their duties, including avoiding; evaluating and combating risks at source; adapting to technical progress; and giving collective protective measures priority over individual measures.

What are the consequences of failing to comply with the CDM?

The CDM Regulations impose a statutory liability on the duty holders listed above, which could give rise to a criminal liability if a serious health and safety incident occurs because of a breach of that duty. Successful prosecution for failure to comply may lead to a fine (unlimited) and/or imprisonment.

In some circumstances, a duty holder can also incur civil liability to others for breach of the CDM Regulations.

Serious breaches of health and safety legislation on construction projects could result in construction work being stopped by HSE or a local authority, and additional work may be needed to put things right.

Furthermore, the HSE may now recover costs of time spent in dealing with material breaches of health and safety law, known as Fee for Intervention (FFI).

If you require any assistance in relation to your regulatory responsibilities, our Regulatory Law experts will be happy to provide guidance and advice. Please contact David Edwards, head of our Regulatory team on 01772 258321.


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