Planning a Refurbishment? Understand Your CDM Duties

A lesser-known responsibility of businesses commissioning construction or refurbishment work at their premises, has begun to catch out those unaware of their health and safety duties, with 2018’s prosecution figures carrying warnings worth noting.

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM Regulations) came into force on April 6, 2015 but are under the radar of many businesses. In the past decade, it has become on-trend for companies to organise their own smaller-scale construction projects, but many renovation-loving business owners are unaware that actions are being brought against counterparts carrying out such works. Of 95 prosecutions under the CDM Regulations thus far, 46 were in 2018, as was the largest fine to date (£800,000), along with the first prison sentence. So, what is at the heart of this scenario?

The answer lies in health and safety. Smaller projects were generating a disproportionate number of injuries, so the Health and Safety Executive sought to make clients, designers and contractors more responsible for project planning, health and safety auditing, project management, risk control and project co-ordination. In principal, the idea was sound. In
practice, many businesses are unaware of their duty of care, whilst professionals such as architects and surveyors, have sometimes been unwilling to take on the burden of compliance.

Of the 86 fines levied since the first (August 2015) there have been nine breaches of Regulation 4 (Client Duties).

The law expects the key parties in any project to be the client (a business, school, retailer, landlord, developer, or other entity), a project designer and a project contractor, with principal designers and contractors. If there are several designers and contractors, the CDM Regulations also demand a plan is in place, before work commences, and that the HSE is notified of any project involving more than 20 people working for more than 30 days, or work requiring 500 person days in total.

Of the 86 fines levied since the first (August 2015) there have been nine breaches of Regulation 4 (Client Duties). Some businesses remain unaware of the required process of appointing a principal designer, preparing a brief embracing risk management, instructing a principal contractor, ensuring there is sufficient time, budget and resource to ensure safety, and verifying that workmen have suitable skills and experience.

Additionally, a client must continually check and monitor work and welfare facilities and ultimately prepare and maintain a health and safety file.

This may seem daunting yet using a consultant can increase project costs. However, if going it alone, the ‘client’ must follow the required process. Failure to do so could result in a fine, prosecution or prison sentence, but could just as easily see an HSE inspector closing a project down. That would incur the penalty of an HSE Fee For Intervention (FFI), levied per hour of time incurred by an inspector, at an hourly rate of £154. The final invoice could be eye-watering, covering site visits, report writing, measures implementation, briefings and supervision.

If you are planning a project that could result in falls from height, collapsing of structures (walls, beams, chimney breasts or roofs), asbestos risks, scaffolding collapses, building dust generation, electrical cable cutting during digging and excavation and other similar risks, alarm bells should sound. Whatever your grand designs, the basics must also be in place.

If you require help with this aspect of health and safety compliance, we are here to provide professional assistance. Please get in touch to discuss this and any insurance covers you should also have in place.