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The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, also known as the CDM Regulations, set out to manage all health and safety aspects of construction projects. The essential point to note is that each party to the construction project has a clearly defined role under these Regulations. For the purposes of this brief outline the main roles are as follows:

+ Client

+ Principal Designer

+ Principal Contractor

The aim of this article is to provide some brief guidance on how CDM 2015 applies to Clients and how we, as Architects, play a key role in managing health and safety in construction projects.

A Client's Role and Responsibilities

Domestic Client A 'domestic client' is defined as one who is embarking on a home improvement project, including extensions, alterations or even a new build, but generally not as part of any business. In the case of a domestic Client, their role is normally passed on to the 'Principal Contractor', who is usually a main contractor who manages (sub) contractors. However, in the absence of a Principal Contractor, i.e. where a Client has taken responsibility for employing separate trades, e.g. plumber, joiner, roofer, electrician etc, it is best that the Client also engages one of these contractors to be in overall control of the construction phase and assume the role of Principal Contractor.

The greatest risk may present itself if a domestic Client, who may be inexperienced or new to carrying out construction works, embarks on a self-build project bringing in and managing trades as necessary throughout the process - like you see on Grand Designs sometimes! It is crucial then that the domestic Client recognises their legal duties and the implications of the CDM 2015 Regulations. A client who does not appoint a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor will be legally responsible for their duties!

Commercial Client A 'Commercial Client' is defined as any individual or organisation carrying out a construction project as part of a business. This also includes building a single dwelling house for the purpose of selling on for profit, or carrying out alterations to a commercial property. In this case, the Client must ensure that they carry out their role in full throughout the duration of the project. This may also include ensuring that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is notified (for projects of over a certain size or duration), or appointing the Principal Designer & Principal Contractor at the right time and making sure they have the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to carry out their duties.

Principal Designer

The definition of a 'Principal Designer' is an organisation or individual appointed by the Client to take control of the pre-construction phase of any project involving more than one contractor. Under this regulation, and as early as at the inception of the project, the Client must appoint a Principal Designer if the project has more than one contractor*. In most cases, the Architect would be the most suitable person to be appointed as Principal Designer and a separate fee is usually applied to carry out this role.

The Principal Designer’s role is to design out risks and hazards and provide the pre-construction information to allow the contractors to tender for the works. The pre-construction information provides information on residual risks to the tendering contractors and also helps the (eventual) Principal Contractor to formulate their Construction Phase Plan. The Principal Designer also advises Clients on managing health and safety – for example, whether an asbestos survey is required, etc. DMA has extensive knowledge and experience in undertaking the role of Principal Designer in projects of varying complexity. Health and safety is embedded into our design processes and we also guide our clients through all stages from inception to completion.

Ultimately as Clients, it’s important to bear in mind that the CDM Regulations apply to all construction projects and you must ensure you are engaging a competent person(s) to undertake each of the required roles. If in doubt, speak to us or visit : for further guidance.

*Small jobs involving one contractor only such as painters or tilers carrying out minor home improvement works will not require the appointment of Principal Designer and Principal Contractor.

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