Construction update: new CDM Regulations apply from Easter Monday

Construction professionals will be familiar with the requirements of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, which came into effect in April 2007 and aimed to improve the management and co-ordination of health and safety issues in commercial construction projects by laying down the health and safety obligations of clients and construction team members.

However, the 2007 Regulations have been criticised in the industry for being too complex and placing an onerous and expensive bureaucratic burden on construction projects. Following a consultation, the Health and Safety Executive published the CDM Regulations 2015, which come into force on 6 April 2015.

One of the most talked about changes under the new Regulations is the replacement of the CDM co-ordinator with a 'Principal Designer'. Under the 2007 Regulations, an independent third party CDM co-ordinator had to be appointed on all projects notifiable to the HSE.

It is intended that an existing member of the construction team will fulfil the new role of 'Principal Designer', who must be a 'designer' within the meaning of the new Regulations. In the majority of cases, the role will be undertaken by the lead designer on the project, usually the architect. The impact of this change will be made greater by the extension of the new Regulations to domestic projects.

Under the 2007 Regulations, only 'notifiable' projects (i.e. those expected to last 30 days or more or expected to involve 500 person-days of labour) triggered CDM requirements, including the appointment of a CDM co-ordinator. Under the new Regulations, any project involving more than one contractor will trigger the requirement for the appointment of a 'Principal Designer', regardless of the size of the project. 'Principal Designers' may therefore need to be appointed even on small domestic projects.

As 'Principal Designers' take on responsibility for health and safety issues on construction projects, they should discuss with their professional indemnity insurers whether a claim in respect of a breach of the new Regulations will be covered under the terms of their existing professional indemnity policy. Whether or not the professional has the requisite health and safety experience and knowledge to fulfil the CDM requirements is also likely to be a concern, as even those 'Principal Designers' who sub-contract their duties will still be liable for breaches in the first instance.

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