It has been over two years since the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) were introduced and they still are not widely understood.
The CDM responsibilities are now divided between the Client, the Principal Designer, Designers, Principal Contractor and Contractors.
The Principal Designer role was introduced into CDM 2015 and was a major part of the changes. Their primary role is to identify and eliminate foreseeable risk through design at the pre-construction phase, ensuring that other designers consider buildability, maintenance and the ongoing use of the building once it has been signed over.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that Clients must have responsibility for projects. This is from the concept stage through to the completion of the project, health and safety must be regulated so that it is considered from the outset. If the Client fails to appoint a Principal Designer or Principal Contractor then they are deemed to fulfil these roles until they make the appointment.
At the start, the Client is responsible for choosing a project team with the skills, knowledge and experience to realise the design safely. There is not a checklist for finding the right Principal Designer, but their attributes should include construction knowledge, soft skills to liaise with the parties, and experience of the type and size of the planned works.
There are many duties in CDM that Clients can miss if they are not experienced, indeed they cannot let building start until there is a Construction Phase Plan (CPP) in place. This must set out the health and safety arrangements and site rules covering the construction phase.
The Principal Contractor should not be allowed to start on site until the Client is satisfied that the CPP is sufficiently developed.
CDM 2015 duties are significantly changed for construction clients and it is understandable why there is still confusion. There is a lot to lose if you do not choose the right team, don’t ask the right questions, don’t challenge other duty-holders when needed or do not have the skills needed to be able to fulfil their duties.
To help with the minefield the Client may appoint a CDM Advisor to the project team. These advisors work with the client and the project team to help limit their exposure to risk and use their health and safety expertise to ensure that the CDM duties are being properly fulfilled.