The HSE took Luxembourg-based design practice Paul Wurth to court after an accident at a British Steel plant in Port Talbot in 1997, when a slag conveyor fell on top of a worker.
The HSE alleged that the firm had failed in its duty as designer under the Construction (Design and Management) regulations. These rules stipulate that a firm should take proper measures to ensure that its designs avoid foreseeable risks to the health and safety of people who come into contact with them.
The company was found guilty of the offence, but the decision was overruled by the Court of Appeal in January of this year. In its judgment, the court said the wording of the HSE regulations should be interpreted to mean that design firms were not responsible for defective designs prepared by employees.
Kevin Myers, the HSE’s chief inspector of construction, said: “It is important we act swiftly on the recent Court of Appeal ruling. We must eliminate any ambiguities in the responsibilities and duties of designers.”
The HSE will consult clients, architects and contractors about proposed rule amendments in the next few months.
Myers added: “I have no reason to doubt that designers will continue to play their part in working to achieve better standards in the industry – particularly as the philosophy of CDM complements broader industry initiatives such as those arising from the Egan report, Rethinking Construction.“
Paul Wurth was unavailable for comment.