The new CDM regulations – what can we expect?

Author: Gillian Birkby

While the construction industry has been dealing with the recession (too many people, not enough work) and now the recovery from the recession (not enough people, not enough bricks) the Health and Safety Executive has been busy thinking how it might improve the CDM regulations. As a result of the recession, the HSE has suffered serious cuts in its own budget, so it has fewer resources to devote to site inspections and the investigation of accidents. This means that the self-policing implied by CDM is particularly important.

A further complication comes from the government’s Better Regulation initiative, which requires “one-in, two-out”, so in amending the CDM regulations the HSE also needed to reduce the overall number of regulations. This is not too difficult to achieve, though, by combining two existing regulations into one new regulation.

So what do the new CDM regulations look like? At the moment we have only the version produced with the consultation document in the spring. We know that the HSE is currently redrafting part of it to make it clearer and that there will be at least one change from the current draft – the HSE is likely to incorporate a transitional period of six months from the date the new regulations come into force, before existing projects have to comply with the new regulations.

Apart from that, the major change is that the role of the CDM co-ordinator will cease to exist. The duties currently fulfilled by the CDM co-ordinator will be imposed partly on the client and partly on a new duty holder – the Principal Designer. This role should not be confused with the lead designer; the Principal Designer is responsible for the health and safety aspects of the design, primarily in the pre-construction phase. The HSE envisages that one of the designers working on the project will become the Principal Designer – probably the first one on the scene, often the architect. The Principal Designer will have the duty of planning, managing, monitoring and co-ordinating the pre-construction phase to “ensure” that the project is carried out without health and safety risks, so far as reasonably practicable. The Principal Designer is also required to ensure the co-operation of everyone working on the project, which will be an interesting challenge for them.

Clients already have CDM duties, and these have now been refocused in a way which makes them somewhat more onerous. For example, a client must ensure that both the Principal Designer and the principal contractor comply with their duties under the regulations. For a client, the crucial point is that they will no longer be able to rely on the CDM co-ordinator to explain exactly what they should be doing and making sure that the client duties are fulfilled. Some clients may therefore retain a health and safety consultant to advise them on fulfilling their duties, particularly in the early stages when Principal Designers are getting used to the new role.

When the final version of the new CDM regulations is published we can all look in detail at exactly what is required from each of the duty holders. This is due to be published in early October and come into force in early April 2015, with the transitional period expiring in October 2015. Given the length of many projects, from initial design to practical completion, it is important to be aware of the forthcoming changes.

Gillian Birkby, Head of Construction, Fladgate LLP (

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