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Clients face increased scrutiny under new CDM rules

Clients will face greater legal scrutiny over health and safety standards following the introduction of the first new Construction Design and Management regulations for eight years

The 2015 CDM regulations, which came into force on 6 April, will see clients formally take on responsibility for health and safety on construction projects.

Among a range of measures, clients must ensure that sufficient time and resources are allocated to dealing with health and safety issues at appropriate stages throughout a project.

They must also assemble a professional team and make sure that individual responsibilities are clearly understood.

In cases where these tasks are delegated to a contractor, responsibility still falls on the client if the wrong party is appointed.

In a material change from the last set of CDM regulations, published in 2007, a client-appointed ‘principle designer’ will monitor health and safety during the pre-construction phase.

This role will replace that of the CDM co-ordinator, which the government’s Health & Safety Executive said “was not in many cases well-embedded in construction projects” and “was often felt to add considerable cost without concomitant benefit”.

The HSE added: “The 2015 regulations are shorter and more linear in structure than the 2007 regulations and aim to facilitate better understanding by the small businesses which predominate in the construction industry.

“The 2015 regulations also provide for a more streamlined and less bureaucratic approach to co-ordination of health and safety information during construction projects.”

Legal experts have said that clients will have to be on their toes to avoid being caught out by the new rules.

Construction lawyer Charles Brien at HBJ Gateley said: “While the new legislation’s designed to simplify health and safety requirements, the onus is now on clients to understand the subtle shift in liability and to change their policies and practices accordingly. 

“Ignorance will be no defence, and if clients are found to have fallen short of the expected standard, they may be blocked from continuing a project until they can demonstrate they have changed the way they work.”

The new guidelines appear to have been met with approval by the construction industry.

UKCG head of health and safety David Lambert said: “After a long and intensive period of consultation and discussion, we welcome the clarity which the guidance brings, and will continue to work closely with the supply chain and the HSE to ensure appropriate application of the regulations.”

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