As of 6 April 2015, home-owners 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.
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 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.
The procurement route taken will be far more critical under these new regulations. Using a main contractorwill 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.
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.