The HSE is asking for feedback on its draft CDM regulations so this is a chance for the industry to consider how the proposals will affect businesses and whether standards will be raised

Gillian Birkby

Health and safety is always a question of carrot and stick. The stick is the threat of criminal prosecution and some of the carrots are a healthy workforce, a good reputation in the industry and well-run construction sites. 

Although the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has extensive powers to wield a stick, its concern, naturally, is prevention rather than cure.

Its success is measured in a reduction in the number of deaths and injuries, rather than an increase in prosecutions.

So with this in mind, how far will the proposed new Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) Regulations go to give the HSE the success it seeks? 

Draft regulations have been published as part of a consultation document and the main changes were outlined by Iain Withers in his article in Building on 4 April 2014.

The most noticeable change is the abolition of the role of the CDM co-ordinator (CDMC) and its replacement with a “principal designer”. If the client does not appoint one, the functions of the principal designer will become the duty of the whole project team.

One noticeable change is the abolition of the role of CDMC and its replacement with a ‘principal designer’

This is a powerful incentive for the team to ensure that the client appoints one of its members as principal designer to avoid the potential confusion in sharing the role and finding that everyone has assumed that someone else on the team would be doing the job.

It is important to recognise that the duties of the principal designer are not the same as those of the CDMC currently. 

For example, the client has more duties and is responsible for notifying the project. The principal designer must ensure the co-operation of everyone working on the project rather than just facilitating that co-operation.

Both client and principal designer are responsible for providing pre-construction information. Rather than ensuring suitable health and safety arrangements are made (a current CDMC duty), the principal designer will have to ensure that designers comply with their own duties under the new Regulation 10.

They will be responsible for preparing the health and safety file, which is similar to the CDMC’s current duty, but there is no obligation to pass it to anyone at the end of the project. 

The draft regulations and the reasoning behind them have been published in a consultation paper which is available at and the HSE has invited feedback on the proposed changes.

There is an HSE questionnaire covering the main changes and individual responses can also be made.

In addition to the proposed principal designer role, there are numerous other issues on which feedback could be given, such as:

  • The Approved Code of Practice is to be withdrawn and replaced by sector-specific guidance, for example, work on high-risk activities such as roof replacement. Will this work better or is there still a place for a code of practice?
  • The requirement to specify a mobilisation period for the contractor, now embedded in JCT contracts and others, has been left out. This was intended to provide a better standard of welfare facilities for the workforce, particularly in the early stages of work on site. Will employers still include such a provision in their contracts or will it be dropped in favour of the traditional - “The job is yours, start on Monday”?
  • To comply with the mobile sites directive, under new regulation 4 domestic clients would have duties, though these will have to be carried out by the contractor unless there is more than one contractor working on the project at any time, in which case the domestic client must appoint a principal designer and principal contractor. Neither the designer nor contractor should start work unless the client has been made aware of their duties under the regulations. Will this help in achieving greater SME compliance with health and safety requirements?
  • In an effort to reduce bureaucracy, Appendix 4 on assessing competence will be replaced by a requirement to appoint people with the necessary information, instruction and training.
  • Less projects will have to be notified to the HSE: now only those that are longer than 30 working days AND involve more than 20 workers on site at any one time, or exceed 500 person days on site. The HSE says that £3m will be saved by making this change, but will it affect health and safety standards on sites that now fall beneath the threshold?

The consultation period ends on 6 June 2014. It is worth writing to the HSE or completing its questionnaire with comments on the proposed regulations. The HSE want to hear from you.

Gillian Birkby is head of construction at Fladgate