Kate Vernon introduces the new CDM Regulations, coming into force on 6 April 2015.

New law

Construction professionals will be familiar with the requirements of the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2007 (the 2007 Regulations). The 2007 Regulations came into effect in April 2007 and aimed to improve management and co-ordination of health and safety issues in commercial construction projects by laying down the health and safety obligations of clients and construction team members.

However, the 2007 Regulations have been criticised in the industry for being too complex and placing an onerous and expensive bureaucratic burden on construction projects. In March 2014, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) opened a public consultation into its proposals for the revision of the CDM Regulations 2007. Further to the report which followed that consultation, the HSE has now published the draft CDM Regulations 2015. These new Regulations are due to come into force on 6 April 2015.

Appointment of a ‘Principal Designer’

One of the most talked about changes proposed under the new Regulations is the replacement of the CDM co-ordinator with a ‘Principal Designer’. Under the 2007 Regulations, an independent third party CDM coordinator must be appointed on all projects notifiable to the HSE. CDM consultants are often brought in to fulfill this role at considerable expense and an oft-cited criticism is that they are not well embedded into the pre-construction team.

It is intended that an existing member of the construction team will fulfill the new role of ‘Principal Designer’, who must be a ‘designer’ within the meaning of the new Regulations. In the majority of cases, the role will be undertaken by the lead designer on the project, usually the architect.

The impact of this change will be made greater by the extension of aspects of the new Regulations to domestic projects. Under the 2007 Regulations only ‘notifiable’ projects (i.e. those expected to last 30 days or more or expected to involve 500 person-days of labour) trigger CDM requirements, including the appointment of a CDM coordinator. Under the new Regulations, any project involving more than one contractor will trigger the requirement for the appointment of a ‘Principal Designer’, regardless of the size of the project. ‘Principal Designers’ may therefore need to be appointed even on small domestic projects.

Professional indemnity insurance considerations

As ‘Principal Designers’ take on responsibility for health and safety issues on construction projects, their professional indemnity insurers will need to consider whether a claim in respect of a breach of the new Regulations will be covered under the terms of the existing professional indemnity policy. Whether or not the professional has the requisite health and safety experience and knowledge to fulfill the CDM requirements is also likely to be a concern, as even those ‘Principal Designers’ who sub-contract their duties will still be liable for breaches in the first instance.