James Ritchie of The Association for Project Safety answers the questions most raised about the new CDM Regulations with regard to domestic projects

The phone line has been red hot since the beginning of the year. Everyone wants to know the implications of the new CDM Regulations; what they mean for their projects, clients, designers and contractors. “Can I be a Principal Designer?” “My client wants to appoint me to carry on giving him advice on his construction projects – is that allowed?” “How strict is the Principal Designer duty to ensure designers comply with the regulations?” “What is going to happen on domestic projects?” “What if my domestic client appoints all the contractors separately?”

CDM2015 is aimed at small and domestic projects – the very area where most construction accidents and incidents are occurring – and many of the calls are from architects who do nothing but domestic projects.

So what do Domestic Clients Need to do?

CDM2015 understands that most domestic clients will not be familiar with design or construction projects or associated legislation. If someone is about to alter or extend their house or buildings, thinking of putting up a new one or demolishing an existing one, then the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM2015) place a number of specific duties on them as a construction Client.

The aim of the CDM2015 Regulations is to make health and safety an essential and integral part of the planning and management of projects and to make sure that everyone works together to reduce the risk to the health or safety of those who work on the structure, who may be affected by these works, or who will use it once it’s completed. A domestic client is someone who has construction work done on their own home or the home of a family member which is not in connection with a business. Unlike CDM2007, domestic clients have duties under CDM2015.

The extent of these duties varies with the type of project involved. On projects that are likely to involve more than one contractor, the domestic client is required to appoint a Principal Designer before significant detailed design work starts so that they can advise and assist the client with their health and safety duties and plan, manage, monitor and co-ordinate the health & safety of the pre-construction phase of the project. The Principal Designer is a designer (architect, building surveyor or engineer for example) who can demonstrate to the client that they have knowledge, skill and experience of CDM2015 and understand the process of design risk management.

When clients are talking to a designer or designers about their project they should check that the designer has the capability and experience to do the work. A designer might be a member of one of the following professional bodies – ARB, RIBA, RIAS, CIAT, RICS, IStructE etc. and, in order to carry out the Principal Designer role, should have an accreditation in construction health and safety risk management (Registered membership of APS for example) or can provide evidence of having undertaken appropriate training on CDM2015.

The Regulations recognise that Clients hold the power to influence and control the designers and contractors they engage or appoint on a project, and therefore that the ultimate responsibility for the achievement of a safe and healthy project is in your hands as much as theirs.

The Regulations are about making sure that there is:

  • Early appointment or engagement of capable key people or organisations that have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and resources;
  • A realistic project programme which gives enough time for planning and programming as well as carrying out the work itself;
  • Early identification and reduction of construction risks and proper management of those that remain, so that construction is safe and does not damage the health of workers or others;
  • Co-operation between all involved in a project and effective coordination regarding Health and Safety issues;
  • Adequate welfare facilities provided from the start and throughout the construction phase; and that
  • Appropriate information is made available to the right people at the right time so that work can be carried out safely and without risk to health.

However, it is very important that the amount of effort devoted to managing health and safety is kept appropriate and proportionate to the complexity of the project and level of risks. It is particularly important to be aware of and avoid unnecessary paperwork. Most domestic work should be relatively simple and therefore require minimal paperwork.

What type of domestic project is being planned?

Irrespective of size or duration, the CDM2015 regulations separate construction projects into two types – dependent on how many contractors will be involved in the project.

The two types are:

Projects with only one contractor –

where the project will only require one contractor working on the site. An example of this might be an electrician rewiring the house or a plumber installing a replacement boiler when no other trades are required to do any work. Where the project only involves one contractor, the client duties specified in CDM2015 Regulation 4(1) to (7) and Regulation 6, must be carried out by the contractor. The contractor needs to undertake these duties in addition to their own duties as a contractor.

When clients are selecting a contractor, they should ensure that the contractor is aware of the client duties under CDM2015 as well as their own contractor duties. Clients are advised to ask for examples of how the contractor has done this on previous projects.

Projects that are likely to involve more than one contractor –

This will be the majority of projects. For example, if the work will require a bricklayer, electrician, plumber, roofer and plasterer, then that is five contractors.

If it is likely that the project will require more than one contractor, then the client must appoint a designer with control over the pre-construction phase as Principal Designer and a contractor with control over the construction phase as Principal Contractor. These appointments must be made as soon as practicable and before the construction phase begins. If the client fails to make these appointments, then the designer in control of the pre-construction phase is deemed to be the Principal Designer and the contractor in control of the construction phase is deemed to be the Principal Contractor.

If the client is in doubt, they should assume that the project will require more than one contractor. The appointed designer or contractor should be able to help clients decide or alternatively clients can contact the free Public CDM Helpline as a source of independent advice on 0333 088 2015.


James Ritchie BA BArch RIBA RMaPS

Head of External Affairs and Deputy Chief Executive

The Association for Project Safety

Tel: 0845 2691847




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