The most important UK regulations relating to all types of construction work changed dramatically in 2015.

The construction industry has always had a high rate of accidents and fatalities. To implement a European Directive, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations were introduced into the UK in 1994. Known ‘affectionately’ as CDM or Condam, they were changed in 2007. A Domestic Client under CDM is someone who is having work done to their home or the home of a family member. Under the 1994 and 2007 Regulations, Domestic Clients had no legal duties.

However, this all changed when CDM 2015 came into force. With immediate effect, Domestic Clients do now have legal duties. These duties apply to all construction work done at home, including for example re-wiring, new windows, an extension or an attic conversion.

The 1994 and 2007 Regulations were both accompanied by a Health and Safety Executive Approved Code of Practice. As yet there is no Approved Code of Practice for CDM 2015, only a guidance document. The HSE has recently advised that it might never publish a Code of Practice and will only publish guidance.

What do Domestic Clients need to do?

The 2015 CDM Regulations are still being interpreted and consequently professional advice will be required to avoid the many and varied problems that are likely to arise; this will particularly be the case if a Code of Practice is not produced.

The first thing the Domestic Client must establish is whether there will be one or more type of contractor working on the project as this makes a difference to the legal duties.

i. Just one type of contractor?

If a domestic project (re-wiring or a new boiler for example) has just one type of contractor (electrician, plumber, builder) and no other trades are involved, that sole Contractor assumes most of the legal duties of the Domestic Client. However, the Domestic Client still has to make sure, and preferably in writing, that the Contractor he or she has employed is aware of their duties under CDM 2015.

The advice being offered to Domestic Clients is to obtain written examples from the Contractor to demonstrate that they are aware of their duties. In due course, it is hoped that Contractors will be able to obtain and produce some form of certificate to demonstrate CDM awareness.

ii. More than one type of contractor?

If there is more than one type of contractor (maybe an extension or attic conversion with plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, etc) the Domestic Client must appoint a ‘Principal Designer’ who has overall control over the pre-construction design. The Domestic Client must also appoint a ‘Principal Contractor’ who has overall control over the construction work.

If the Domestic Client does not make these two appointments, whoever designed the work is assumed to be the Principal Designer and the main contractor is assumed to be the Principal Contractor. If the Domestic Client has designed the work, he or she will find themselves with the CDM duties of a Principal Designer.

In any case, the Domestic Client needs to make sure that those involved are suitable professionals and have accreditation in construction health and safety risk management. It is again advisable to obtain written proof and supporting evidence.

Standard Construction Plan

Whatever type of Domestic work is being undertaken, every project must now have a Construction Plan prepared by the Contractor (for one contractor jobs) or by the Principal Contractor (for multi-contractor jobs).

The HSE has produced a standard Construction Plan on its website which it suggests that Domestic Clients have filled in by or with the Contractor. It is recommended that Domestic Clients retain a copy of the Construction Plan. The Association for Project Safety (APS) has expressed concern that the HSE’s Construction Plan is too basic, so further developments in this area are likely for several years. Much of the published industry advice is intended for commercial Clients, but the HSE has published guidance for Domestic Clients in the form of INDG 411 ‘Need Building Work Done’

Key things to remember

  1. Even if there is just one type of contractor, you must be seen to have checked that they are competent.
  2. More than one type of contractor and you need to appoint one of them as the Principal Designer and the Principal Contractor to oversee the others.
  3. Get the contractor or Principal Contractor to fill in a construction plan and ask for a copy.
  4. If the worst happens and something does go wrong, speak to Hawkins. We will be able to help.

Mike Hopwood is a Principal Associate with Hawkins and has had huge involvement with the CDM regulations since their introduction in 1994. He has undertaken the role of Planning Supervisor and CDM Co-ordinator and is a member of the Association for Project Safety (APS), the UK’s foremost body for CDM. Mike has assisted in many civil cases and prosecutions where breaches of CDM have been alleged and has given evidence in Court on CDM on numerous occasions. As someone who has applied the Regulations in real life, Mike can combine practical experience with detailed knowledge of the Legislation; consequently, he can provide valuable assistance to the Court and to clients. Mike is keeping up-to-date with developments in CDM 2015.

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