As of 6 April 2015, homeowners carrying out building work are now subject to the revised CDM regulations, which involve health and safety provision on building sites. The good news is that in most cases self builders and renovators won’t have to actively get involved in Health and Safety management; the bad news is that in some cases they will. The situation is fluid, new and quite confusing, so we’ve done our best to clarify it here.

What are the key changes?

The key consideration is that on all domestic building projects involving structural work, a Principal Contractor and Principal Designer will need to be responsible for meeting the Construction, Design & Management (CDM) Regulations. The Principal Contractor (PC), responsible for Health and Safety on the site itself, will be the main contractor you’re using (more on that later) and the Principal Designer (PD), responsible for planning and building-in risk management at the design stage (the old CDM co-ordinator role), will be your designer.

Note: The homeowner is not responsible for appointing a PC and PD, but to avoid uncertainty you should raise the issue with your builder and designer. They are automatically assumed to be responsible for it under the new CDM regs.

What about the different build routes?

The procurement route taken will be far more critical under these new regulations. Using a main contractor will alleviate this, with the role of principal contractor being taken on as matter of course. However, if you are looking to utilise trade contractors and subcontractors, then it would seem that the best route forward is for you, the self builder or renovator, to take on the principal contractor role. If you are building the house on an entirely DIY basis, the project is classed as DIY and doesn’t fall under the CDM regulations.

Acting as Your Own Principal Contractor

  • You will be responsible for the overall safety planning for the works, and as such will need to draw up the Construction Phase Safety Plan for the works — a document which is specific to your scheme, and addresses the risk assessments, logistics and method statements for the works. This must demonstrate that you have taken the health and safety aspects into account.
  • The CITB CDM Wizard App (free) is a useful resource to help you get more guidance and come up with a plan.
  • Bear in mind that individual tradesmen are responsible for alerting you, as the PC, to potential safety issues in their own subcontracted fields.
  • In the unlikely event that your project extends to over 500 man days (e.g. 250 days of work for two people) then you will have to notify HSE about it using form F10.
  • In terms of on-site provision, there are a few things you will need to look at, hire in and purchase. Check out our Guide to Being a Principal Contractor for more.

The Principal Designer

In most cases, this will fall on the main designer for the scheme — your architect most likely. They will be required to consider health and safety (and future maintenance) when designing or specifying the works, and retain this responsibility throughout the works, including co-ordinating with the client and principal contractor.

However, it currently remains unclear how this role works when you are your own designer (as is sometimes the case in smaller self builds) or when using a company’s own products, such as an oak frame system. In the case of a system build, then the intent of the regulations would seem to be that the system company would be the principal designer. Again, it remains to be seen how this pans out as currently they are generally unwilling to take on the role for the whole scheme unless it is turnkey.

In the event that you design your own self build, you are the principal designer, and are therefore required to design with safety at the fore. Remember this includes both safe systems and a safe means of construction as well, and a safe means of maintenance in the future.

The HSE have a handy form to help your builder plan the work and address any safety issues. It can be found here.

Need more clarification on how CDM could affect your project? Post your questions in the comment box below  and we will try to answer as many as possible

Our Sponsors