Blog: CDM2015 and its implications for the homeowner

Louise Hosking
Louise Hosking

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) came into force on 6th April 2015 and has implications for anyone organising work on their home.

Previously, the majority of CDM only applied in the commercial sector. But statistics tell us it’s the smaller jobs where most people are being harmed – not larger construction projects where there are more resources and greater supervision of workers. The construction industry has the largest number of occupational cancer cases with 3500 deaths and 5500 new cancer registrations each year.

CDM covers construction, alteration, renovation and maintenance – this now includes work by contractors in domestic homes for the first time. It sets legal standards on site safety arrangements including the provision of adequate welfare facilities. Duty holders must be identified as follows:

  • The client
  • Contractors
  • The Principal Contractor (PC) (where there is more than one contractor)
  • Designers
  • The Principal Designer (PD) (if there is more than one contractor)
  • Pre-construction (or hazard) information must be available before starting. This could include the location of asbestos or how to isolate a gas supply. It may include drawings which show how an existing foundation was constructed, or the location of underground services. This may mean additional survey work (and time) before the job starts.

    A Construction Phase Plan (CPP) must be completed before work starts (for every project.) The regulations specify standards of how the contractor or PC must manage site safety to protect not only those working there, but anyone else who could be affected. The CITB have created a CPP app which can be used to create a plan with minimal fuss. Both the CITB and HSE have templates on their websites too.

    Designers must create a concept which can be safely built, used, maintained, and ultimately decommissioned. This could mean installing windows which can be cleaned from the inside rather than via ladder, or choosing an alternative to solvent based chemical products and paints during construction.

    If a PD has been appointed, a Health & Safety file must be collated by them during the project and presented at the end. It is likely we will see files being requested by conveyancing solicitors when property is brought and sold in the future. This ‘handover pack’ includes information on exactly what has been built, the sequence of build, materials or components installed and how.

    The regulations recognise that members of the public commissioning work on their own homes cannot be held accountable in the same manner as commercial clients. Duties are still there, but usually transferred to the PC (or contractor if there is only one).

    In most cases, all domestic clients should be concerned with is appointing the PC & PD in writing, and ensuring the Health & Safety file is provided at the end where there is more than one contractor involved in the project. My advice is to receive a commitment from the PD or PC, in writing, to ensure the file will be provided within a reasonable time of the project being completed.

    However, homeowners who actively choose not to cooperate with their builder’s efforts to work safely could be held responsible - especially if they give an instruction, contrary to good advice, which later leads to an incident.

    At the end of 2014, the HSE commissioned research which asked homeowners how they choose their contractors. Very few mentioned safety. This may have to change in the future if, having completed a new bathroom, conservatory or extension, the purchaser requests a Health & Safety file which has never been created, and results in potential delays or complications with a sale.

    The HSE have been keen to emphasise a proportionate response. A risk-based approach should be taken; where several trades are a necessity, when structural alteration is being undertaken, or working at height and excavation is required, a greater consideration to safety is required.

    The aim of the new legislation is to make everyone think before a spade is put into the ground, a wall is brought down, a new basement propped, or a surface of unknown construction drilled. If followed, there should be fewer surprises along the way. There is a cost to greater safety and supervision which will be passed on. But if it is your son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife or partner who cannot enjoy retirement in their own home you would definitely argue it’s a price worth paying. And if you come to sell in a few years’ time only to find no file for your fabulous extension, it may cost considerably more.

    • Louise Hosking MCIEH CMIOSH RMaPS AIEMA SIIRSM is a chartered safety & health practitioner and director at Hosking Associates Ltd
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