Health & Safety; What Clients need to know

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 outline who is responsible for Construction Safety at the various stages of your Project – Pre-Construction, Construction, and Post-Construction, and help to ensure that it will be delivered safely.

Compliance with these regulations should be an integral part of any well-managed project, and as well as ensuring Safety, it can form a valuable part of the design process – helping to avoid unexpected costs, and avoid any time-consuming on-site issues.

Responsibilities for Health and Safety are split into pre-defined roles – Those of the Client, Principal Contractor & Principal Designer.

What is a Principal Contractor?

Construction projects can be complex and involve multiple trades; some of the work can be high risk. A Principal contractor is required to Plan, Manage & Co-ordinate the Construction phase of a project.

What is a Principal Designer?

A construction project client can appoint a Principal Designer to take control of the Pre-Construction and Post-Construction phases of a project on their behalf. They must plan, Manage & Co-ordinate the Planning and Design work.

All designers, as an integral part of their scope and the design process, should consider project risks, and follow the process of Identifying, Eliminating, Reducing, and Controlling any risks identified.

It is the Principal Designer’s responsibility to ensure that any residual risks – those that cannot be eliminated – are notified to the Contractor and, where relevant, added to the Health and Safety file.

What are the client’s responsibilities?

No matter how large or small your project, it is the client that decides who will carry out the work and how much money, time, and resources are available. The client, therefore, has a significant impact on the health, Safety and welfare of workers and others affected by the works, such as neighbours, the general public, building occupiers, and anybody else that may be involved in the future maintenance or repair of the building.

As a client, unless you appoint a Principal Designer or Principal Contractor, you will be responsible by law for the things that they should have done. Fundamentally, the client has a legal responsibility to ensure that construction work is undertaken safely and without damaging workers’ and other people’s health.

For “Homeowner” projects (i.e. work to your own home), the CDM regulations state that the Contractor is to take on the client’s responsibilities – So that Pre-Construction, Construction, and Post-Construction duties all sit with them, unless expressly stated otherwise.

For larger, more complex Homeowner projects where an Architect or other Consultant is appointed, they can and should be asked to take on the Principal Designer role.

What are the most significant construction risks, and do you need to worry?

The most significant causes of accidents and ill health in construction are Falls from height, Collapse of excavations and structures, Exposure to building dust / Asbestos, & Electricity.

Where projects are well planned, well-informed operatives and adequate time is allowed, construction risks can be mitigated – and projects completed safely.

Communication is vital – regular team meetings between client, design team, and Contractor are a must, with Health and Safety always issue one on the agenda.

If you want to know more about your responsibilities for Health & Safety as a client, the Health & Safety Executive has a usefully short guide.

Need Building work done? – A short guide for clients on the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015

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