New safety regulations to affect even routine building maintenance tasks

New safety regs to affect even routine maintenance jobsAny organisation which intends to contract for construction work could risk fines or imprisonment if they do not comply with new legal safety regulations covering site management. Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind  is warning that The Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) Regulations, which come into force on 6 April, will affect all construction work in the UK. The regulations give ‘clients’, meaning anyone for whom a project is carried out, a greater role. Once in force, the regulations will require commercial firms to appoint a principal designer and principal contractor whenever any work involves more than one contractor – even where the work involved is very limited and over quickly. The scope of ‘construction work’ under the regulations is wide, covering everything from major infrastructure projects to installing new showers.

Chris Hallam and Stephanie Hewson, projects experts at Pinsent Masons say that those who get it wrong may face prosecution; with the potential for unlimited fines and even, in the case of individuals, imprisonment if convicted. The regulations replace the existing CDM coordinator role with that of a ‘principal designer’, responsible for the planning, management and coordination of the project’s pre-construction phase. The client must appoint a principal designer whenever a project of any size involves more than one contractor – for example, if a plumber and an electrician are appointed to install an electric shower.

Clients appointing others on projects will also be subject to a new general requirement to take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that the appointee has the skill, knowledge and experience and – if the contractor is an organisation – capability necessary to fulfil the role. This replaces the ‘competence’ requirements included in the previous CDM Regulations. The current threshold at which clients must notify construction work to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will also change, resulting in fewer projects being notified.

Through the new regulations, HSE has tightened its oversight of the role played by commercial firms in their own construction projects. In its draft guidance on the new regulations, HSE said that clients are important because they have a major influence over how a project is procured and managed. HSE believes that its new focus is justified because of the perceived impact that client decisions and approach have on health, safety and welfare during construction work.

From 6 April, firms will be expected to make suitable arrangements to ensure construction work on their behalf is carried out without risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. This will include providing relevant pre-construction information such as asbestos surveys to each designer and contractor on the project as soon as possible. They will also have to ensure that the contractor, or principal contractor if applicable, has drawn up a construction phase health and safety plan for all projects including routine maintenance.

The real challenge for these firms says Pinsent Masons, will not be on large construction projects, but rather in routine building maintenance tasks. The regulations will still apply and a construction phase health and safety plan will be necessary – and, whenever more than one contractor is involved, then both a principal designer and principal contractor will have to be appointed. The HSE guidance warns that if a client fails to appoint either of these roles then the client must carry out their associated duties instead.

Click here for more information on the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015