CDM Regulations 2015:
What you need to know

By Louisa Richter von Morgenstern

Changes were relatively recently once more afoot in the health and safety arena and until 06 April 2015, the CDM Regulations had little direct impact on private clients, unless projects had been undertaken via a corporate body. All of that then changed and a significant portion of domestic projects now fall within the regulations. This will also apply to maintenance if the key criteria is met.

As usual, when legislation changes, an inevitable degree of confusion ensues. Following these changes coming into force, I held a Lessons Learnt in Prestige Construction event and here is a useful summary of the key changes and how they now affect domestic projects and private clients.



Key changes

  • The role of CDM coordinator has been abolished and this role is now replaced by the role of principal designer.
  • A principal designer must now coordinate the pre-construction phase.
  • The role of the client has been enhanced. Whereas before, most domestic clients did not have a CDM Coordinator, most will now need one.
  • The CDM Coordinator is now called the principal designer, however the role is not much different and this appointment and the associated cost will push up the overall cost of most domestic projects.

To Improve is to Change;
to be Perfect is to Change Often

Winston Churchill


Clients’ obligations

The client must ensure that:

  • If notifiable, they notify the HSE of the project. Previously this was the CDM Coordinator’s role.
  • The client provides pre-construction information (for example, any existing drawings, surveys or other relevant information) to every contractor and designer (regulation 4(4), CDM 2015).
  • The sole contractor or principal contractor prepares a construction phase plan before construction works begin (regulation 4(5)(a), CDM 2015).
  • The principal designer prepares a health and safety file (regulation 4(5)(b), CDM 2015). Where a project uses (or it is reasonably foreseeable that a project will use) more than one contractor, the client’s duties include appointing a principal designer and principal contractor (regulation 5, CDM 2015).
  • The duty to appoint a principal designer, and to see that it prepares the health and safety file, is triggered only if there is more than one contractor (see paragraph 45). The client must “take reasonable steps” to see that any principal contractor and principal designer comply with the remainder of their duties (regulation 4(6), CDM 2015)

Whereas before most domestic clients did not have a CDM Coordinator, most now need one.


Which projects must a client notify to the HSE?

The client must notify the HSE of a project if either of the following apply:

a) Construction work is scheduled to last longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers on site at any point

b) Construction work is scheduled to exceed 500 person day


Domestic clients

A domestic client is a client “for whom a project is being carried out which is not in the course or furtherance of a business of that client” (regulation 2, CDM 2015).

The domestic client has the duty to provide a safe site under regulation 16 of the CDM 2015. Regulation 7 requires the contractor or (if there is one) principal contractor to carry out the domestic client’s duties to manage the project and notify the HSE (if required). If the domestic client chooses to appoint a principal designer, and agrees with the principal contractor in writing that it will do so, the principal designer carries out those duties.

Further, if the domestic client uses more than one contractor and does not appoint a principal contractor or principal designer, then the designer in control of the pre-construction phase is the principal designer and the contractor in control of the construction phase is the contractor. This will be a question of fact in each case.

So, if a domestic client does not appoint a principal designer, the designer who was in charge of designing the works before they began is the principal designer. But the person notifying the HSE will be the contractor. If the Client appoints the designer as the principal designer then that person notifies the HSE.

But who pays the extra fees? The designer and contractor may indeed ask for additional payment if the client ignores the CDM Regulations in their appointments and, as always, there is no substitute for being well briefed and well versed when it comes to key areas of legislation and compliance, be it party wall or health and safety related.

As a consultant, there is no substitute for ensuring that your knowledge is up to date.


A hot debate

It was not without a degree of humour that I selected Winston Churchill’s quotation. Whilst I am in agreement with the sentiment that to change is most often to improve, I am under no illusion that many readers, both professionals and clients alike, will react fairly strongly to the notion that health and safety legislation is perfect because it keeps changing!

Additional costs do not engender popularity amongst either community and the debate regarding the frequency and extent of change in health and safety legislation is a hot one. However, as a consultant there is no substitute for ensuring that your knowledge is up to date and that your clients are well informed and their expectations managed well.