Gillian Birkby, who assisted the HSE team that revised the regulations, outlines the role of the CDM co-ordinator and the duties of clients

There is growing evidence that applying the CDM regulations to a project will help the client keep costs under control and bring the project in on time. CDM 2007, which comes into force on 6 April, builds on these benefits, and also aims to extend them.

A CDM co-ordinator must be appointed on all projects that have to be notified to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE); that is, those that are likely to last more than 30 days or involve more than 500 person days of work. The CDM co-ordinator’s main function is to assist the client in carrying out its duties, so if the client appoints a competent CDM co-ordinator it can have some confidence that its own duties will be properly performed.

The HSE provides guidance on how to assess competence in paragraphs 193-240 and appendix 4 of the Approved Code of Practice (obtainable from

There are also organisations, such as the Association for Project Safety, that have lists of trained CDM co-ordinators.

Under the original CDM regulations, the client could delegate its liabilities to a client’s agent. This statutory role of client’s agent has now been abolished and there will be no new client’s agents appointed after 6 April.

This role is not the same as the employer’s agent appointed under a design-and-build contract, which acts as contract administrator.

As part of the transitional provisions, existing client’s agents can continue on a project either until that project is completed or for the next five years, whichever is shorter.

This does not prevent clients delegating their CDM duties to an agent if that is the way they wish to run their business. However, that agent will not be an appointment under CDM 2007 and the client remains liable for the agent’s performance of the client’s duties.

Alternatively, if there is more than one client, they can still decide that one of them will be “the client”. In that case, the other clients will have only the duty to co-operate with others involved in the project and to supply information that is in their possession and may be relevant to health and safety.

Designers and contractors are under an obligation not to start work until the client is aware of its duties. This does not mean just sending it an HSE leaflet

There has been some concern about smaller clients and whether they will understand or be able to perform what is required of them.

Designers and contractors are under an obligation not to start work until the client is aware of its duties. This does not mean just sending it the relevant HSE leaflet.

If the client has never encountered the CDM regulations before, the designer should explain what is involved, so the client understands how to fulfil its duties.

If the project is notifiable, and the client has appointed a CDM co-ordinator, which it should do early in the design process, the contractors and designers can have some confidence that the client will be aware of its duties, because the CDM co-ordinator will explain them.

Clients must take reasonable steps to ensure that there are suitable management arrangements in place. This does not mean that clients should do the management themselves.

The arrangements do not need to be complex if it is a low-risk project; they should “focus on the needs of a particular job and should be proportionate to the risks arising from the work” (Approved Code of Practice paragraph 49).

The client must then check from time to time during the project to see that the management arrangements are being implemented.

The client’s duties now extend to projects that are not notifiable to the HSE, as the old “small works” exception has gone. The HSE has suggested that on a small project the client may fulfil its duties by asking the contractor and designers to explain what the arrangements are. Often they will be incorporated into discussions between designers and contractors, for example at regular site meetings.