Watchdog looks to shift more site safety responsibility to architects and engineers

Architects and engineers could shoulder greater responsibility for health and safety on construction projects under proposals for the overhaul of regulations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published this week.

Under the proposals the existing Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) Regulations 2007 would be scrapped and replaced with a streamlined set of regulations.

A key recommendation suggests axing the CDM co-ordinator role on projects - which is often carried out by cost consultants - and transferring responsibility for overseeing health and safety to a new principal designer role, which the HSE suggests should be a design professional such as an architect orengineer.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) urged its members to get involved in the HSE’s consultation on the proposals, which runs until 6 June. David Lambert, health and safety expert panel chair at the ICE, said: “Engineers should get involved as this consultation will shape the future of construction health and safety management. Responsibility will fall with designers in ways it didn’t before.”

But Lambert said the HSE was not proposing the principal designer role “be a replacement for the CDM co-ordinator” and responsibility would be spread to the client as well.

Jan Burgess, a partner at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna specialising in health and safety, said the proposal to replace the CDM co-ordinator role was one of the “key proposed changes” but said “it’s not in its final form, it’s early days”.

Heather Bryant, HSE construction chief inspector, said: “The proposed changes are aimed at ensuring more people come home safe and well from their work and making the law simpler and clearer for employers to understand, particularly small businesses.”

Other proposals include making regulations easier to understand and laying out more prescriptive obligations for individual and corporate competence.

The HSE is overhauling the CDM regulations in response to a 2011 independent review of health and safety legislation, which recommended getting rid of 50% of health and safety laws within three years.