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CDM Regulations

The Role of the Designer


Designers have specific legal duties under The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

The CDM Regulations are aimed at improving the overall management and co-ordination of health, safety and welfare throughout all stages of a construction project to reduce the large numbers of serious and fatal accidents that occur every year in the construction industry.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 replace the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 and the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996. The new Regulations became effective on 6th April 2007.

The Regulations:

  • Alter the responsibilities of Clients
  • Alter the roles of Principal Contractors and Sub-Contractors
  • Alter the roles of Designers
  • Replace the Planning Supervisor with a new role of CDM Co-ordinator.

The degree of detail as well as the time and effort required to comply with the designer’s duties need only be in proportion to the nature, size and level of health and safety risks involved in the project.

Who are Designers?

Designers are any organization or person who is involved in preparing designs for construction work.

This includes:

  • preparing drawings
  • designing detail
  • preparing specifications
  • creating bills of quantities
  • specifying (or prohibiting) articles and substances
  • analysis, calculating or preparatory work.

Designers include:

  • Architects
  • Structural engineers
  • Quantity surveyor
  • Building surveyors
  • Mechanical and electrical engineers
  • Manufacturers and design practices contributing to any part of the design, (e.g. drainage engineers)
  • Those purchasing materials where the choice has been left open, (e.g. those purchasing building blocks and so deciding the weights that bricklayers must handle)
  • Contractors carrying out design work as part of their contribution to a project
  • Temporary works engineers, including those designing auxiliary structures, such as formwork, falsework, façade retention schemes, scaffolding, and piling
  • Interior designers
  • Heritage organisations who specify how work is to be done
  • Those determining how buildings and structures are altered, for example during refurbishment, where this has the potential for partial or complete collapse.

Local authority or government officials may provide advice relating to designs and relevant statutory requirements, but this does not make them designers.

Manufacturers supplying standardised products are not designers under the CDM Regulations 2007, although they have duties under other legislation. The person who selects the product is the designer and must take account of health and safety issues arising from its use. If a product is purpose-made for a project, the person who prepares the specification is a designer under the CDM Regulations 2007, and so is the manufacturer who develops the detailed design.

The Designer’s Role

Designers must avoid foreseeable risks to those involved in the construction and future use of the structure. Designers must eliminate hazards so far as is reasonably practical, and then reduce the risk associated with hazards that remain. Designers must also provide adequate information about any significant risks associated with their design and co-ordinate their work with that of others in order to improve the way in which risks are controlled.

Designers must make sure that they are competent and adequately resourced to address the health and safety issues likely to be involved in the design.

Designers are often the first point of contact for a client. The CDM Regulations 2007 require designers to check that clients are aware of their duties under the Regulations. It is the responsibility of the designer who has the initial contact with the client.

Early appointment of the CDM Co-ordinator is crucial for effective planning and establishing management arrangements from the start. The regulations require the appointment to take place as soon as is practical after initial design work or other preparation for construction work has begun.

Once the CDM Co-ordinator has been appointed, the designer will need to co-operate with them and provide the information that CDM Co-ordinators need to comply with their duties.

Designers must ensure:

  • that the client has appointed a CDM Co-ordinator (Notifiable projects only)
  • that the HSE has been notified (Notifiable projects only)
  • that they do not start design work other than initial design work unless a CDM Co-ordinator has been appointed (Notifiable projects only).

Designers must co-operate with the CDM Co-ordinator, the principal contractor and with any other designers or contractors as necessary for each of them to comply with their duties. (Notifiable projects only)

Designers must also provide any information needed for the Pre-construction Information Pack and the Health and Safety File. (Notifiable projects only)

Design Considerations

Early decisions in design can fundamentally affect the health and safety of construction workers. These decisions influence later design choices, and considerable work may be required if it is necessary to unravel earlier decisions. It is therefore important to address health and safety from the very start.

A designer’s responsibility extends beyond the construction phase of a project. They also need to consider the health and safety of those who will use, maintain, repair, clean, refurbish and eventually demolish a structure.

Where significant risks remain when they have done what they can, designers should provide information with the design to ensure that the CDM Co-ordinator, other designers and contractors are aware of these risks.

Health and safety considerations have to be weighed alongside other factors, including cost, fitness for purpose, aesthetics and environmental impact. The CDM Regulations 2007 allow designers to take due account of other relevant design considerations. The regulations do not prescribe design outcomes, but they do require designers to weigh the various factors and reach reasoned, professional decisions.

Designers must avoid foreseeable risks ‘so far as is reasonably practical, taking account of other relevant design considerations’.

Designers are not expected to consider or address risks that cannot be foreseen, nor are they required to produce zero risk designs, but they must not produce designs that cannot be constructed, maintained, used or demolished in reasonable safety.

Critical Assessment of Designs

Designers should critically assess their design proposals at an early stage, and then throughout the design process, to ensure that health and safety issues are identified and addressed as they go along.

The CDM Regulations 2007 require that designers must first attempt to eliminate hazards, and then control those hazards that cannot be eliminated

Eliminating hazards removes the associated risk, and is therefore the best option and should always be the first choice. It is not always reasonably practical to eliminate hazards, and where this is the case, consideration should be given to incorporating design solutions, which reduce the overall risk to an acceptable level.

This can be done by reducing the:

  • likelihood of harm
  • potential severity of the harm
  • number of people exposed to the harm
  • frequency or duration of exposure to harm.

The focus should be on issues that are known to have the potential to cause significant harm, and where there are known solutions that reduce the risks to everyone exposed.

Designers also need to take account of other relevant health and safety requirements when carrying out design work. Where the structure will be used as a workplace they need to take account of the provisions of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which relate to the design and materials used in the structure.

Typical examples of designed solutions that reduce risks include:

  • breaking large sections of steelwork into smaller sections for easier handling
  • specifying windows that rotate to facilitate safe cleaning from within a building
  • placing light fittings in positions that enable bulbs to be changed safely without the use of ladders
  • ensuring flat roofs are designed with edge protection to facilitate safe maintenance
  • specifying smaller blocks that can be handled more safely during construction
  • specifying non-slip surfaces.

Providing Information

Designers must provide information that other project team members are likely to need to identify and manage the remaining risks. This should be project specific, and concentrate on significant risks that may not be obvious to those who use the design.

For example, providing generic risk information about the prevention of falls is pointless, because competent contractors will already know what needs to be done, but if the design gives rise to a specific and unusual fall risk which may not be obvious to contractors, designers should provide information about this risk.

Designers also need to provide information for the Health and Safety File about aspects of the design that could create significant risks during future construction work or maintenance.

Significant risks are not necessarily those that involve the greatest risks, but those, including health risks that are:

  • not likely to be obvious to a competent contractor or other designers
  • unusual
  • likely to be difficult to manage effectively.

Information should be brief, clear, precise, and in a form suitable for the users. This can be achieved using:

  • notes on drawings – this is specifically mentioned in the Approved Code of Practice as being the preferred method, since the notes will then be immediately available to those carrying out the work
  • written information provided with the design – this should be project specific, and should only contain information which will be useful to those constructing or maintaining the structure
  • suggested construction sequences - showing how the design could be erected safely. Contractors may then adopt this method or develop their own approach.

It is not always possible to provide all the information at the same time, particularly when design work is continuing whilst construction work is underway. In these circumstances, information should be released as the design develops, but construction work should not be allowed to proceed unless all the information necessary for the work to be carried out safely has been provided.

Consultation, Co-operation and Co-ordination

The 2007 Regulations continually stress the need for consultation, co-operation and co-ordination in the planning and management of works. Designers should pro-actively encourage discussion between all parties involved in the project. This includes the client, CDM Co-ordinator, other designers, the principal contractor, sub-contractors and workers.

Designers must co-operate with the client, and other designers and contractors, including those designing temporary works. This is to ensure that incompatibilities between designs are identified and resolved as early as possible, and that the right information is provided in the Pre-construction Information.

For smaller projects where most of the work is done by a single designer, this can be achieved through discussion with those who use or are affected by the design. For larger projects or those involving significant risks, a more managed approach will be necessary.

Co-operation can be encouraged by:

  • setting up an integrated team involving designers, principal contractor and other relevant contractors
  • the appointment of a lead designer
  • agreeing a common approach to risk reduction during design
  • regular meetings of all the design team and contractors
  • regular reviews of developing designs
  • site visits, through which designers can gain a direct insight into how the risks are managed in practice.

Regular reviews of the design involving all members of the design team are particularly important in making sure that proper consideration is given to buildability, usability and maintainability.

  • When considering buildability, meetings should include the contractor so that difficulties associated with construction can be discussed and solutions agreed before the work begins
  • When discussing usability and maintainability, involving the client or those who will be responsible for operating the building or structure will mean that proper consideration can be given to the health and safety of those who will maintain and use the structure once it has been completed.

Doing this during the design stage will result in significant cost savings for the client, as rectifying mistakes after the structure has been built is always expensive. Brief records of the points considered, the conclusions reached, and the basis for those conclusions, can be very helpful when designs are passed from one designer to another. This will reduce the likelihood of important decisions being reversed by those who may not fully understand the implications of doing so.

Too much paperwork is as bad as too little, because the useless hides the necessary. Paperwork listing generic hazards and risks, most of which are well known to contractors and others who use the design are positively harmful.

What Designers Don’t Have To Do

Under the CDM Regulations 2007, designers do not have to:

  • take into account or provide information about unforeseeable hazards and risks
  • design for possible future uses of structures that cannot reasonably be anticipated from their design brief
  • specify construction methods, except where the design assumes or requires a particular construction or erection sequence, or where a competent contractor might need such information
  • exercise any health and safety management function over contractors or others
  • worry about trivial risks.