Two recent HSE prosecutions under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, the ‘CDM Regulations’, have revealed widespread safety failings on construction sites that put workers at risk. The cases underline the importance of all parties understanding their roles and duties under the CDM Regulations, and that they have the competence to fulfil their responsibilities.

In the first case, Sherwood Homes Ltd. was fined £76,000 plus £14,651 costs after two HSE inspections at separate sites found that those working on site were exposed to risks including falls from height, electrocution, inhalation of silica dust and being struck by construction plant. Sherwood Homes had acted as the Client under the CDM Regulations and appointed several Principal Contractors to construct domestic properties at the two sites. Enforcement action was also taken against the Principal Contractors. HSE investigators criticised Sherwood for not fulfilling their Client duties, emphasising that Clients cannot delegate their health and safety responsibilities.

In the second, a contractor, client and director were convicted after conditions at a building site were found to be dangerous. HSE inspectors visited and found poor health and safety conditions including dangerous work at height, unshored excavations and poor welfare facilities. The HSE’s investigation found that the contractor failed to plan, manage and monitor the work on site; the client company failed to make suitable arrangements for managing a project; and a company director had allowed poor conditions on site. Penalties for the three offenders included fines, suspended imprisonment and community service.

The key message to take from these cases is that all those who hold duties under the CDM Regulations must ensure they fully understand and complete those duties. In particular, if you are the Client, you must make sure that a construction project is set up so that it is carried out from start to finish in a way that adequately controls the risk to health and safety of those who may be affected by it. In order to achieve this the Client must engage others, including Designers and Principal Contractors, that have the necessary skills, knowledge, training and organisational capabilities to fulfil their responsibilities under CDM, and can deliver the project safely on behalf of the Client. If the Client fails to do this, the HSE will consider taking enforcement action against them.