How do the Construction Management Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) apply to domestic clients?

For many years’ people having work carried out on their homes, whether that means a small extension or a large brand new self-build project, have been happily able to ignore health and safety regulations, which were formerly known as the Construction a Management Regulations (CDM), as they have traditionally only applied to contractors, commercial schemes and large scale projects homeowners being exempt.

All that changed on the 6th April 2015 when the revised CDM regulations came into force. Now, homeowners are subject to these revised regulations which have been altered in an impetus to place responsibility on the private domestic extender, renovator or self-builder.

The intent of the revision is to ensure that consideration for health and safety is bought to the fore in the design, planning and construction of a scheme. It would seem a well-intended move towards putting safety to front and centre rather than being an afterthought.

Homeowners should not fret - how much it affects you depends on how you are running the project. If you are employing an architect and constructing it with a main contractor for the whole thing, it is largely their responsibility; however if you are running even part of it yourself, you will have responsibilities.

This blog is intended as a brief explanation of the basics for a typical domestic project that Harvey Norman Architects are generally involved in where the domestic’s client’s duties indeed usually pass to the contractor and ourselves as designer.

To start off with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) have produced the following short video to explain the basics of CDM 2015. Then you will see below this a simple info-graphic to illustrate the key requirements of the new regulations.

If you wish more detail again, the CITB have also produced the following guide “need building work done”  plus we would suggest you also look at both the CITB's and HSE's websites for lots of other information:


The three roles

roles 1.jpg


Who is a domestic client? A domestic client is someone who has construction work carried out on their own home, or on the home of a family member, which is not carried out in connection with a business.

What should a domestic client do? The only responsibility you need to worry about is that you, as client, are responsible for appointing a Principal Designer as well as a Principal Contractor. If you do not your duties are automatically transferred to the Contractor or Principal Contractor. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide information on defining domestic clients here.


Who is the principle designer? As 'lead' designer does this role now automatically fall on architects? No is the short answer. Architects will likely be able to carry out these services for you in domestic scenarios, however, by law a written appointment is required with your architect to confirm they will carry out these services on your behalf.

Once appointed the Principal Designer is responsible for the management of health and safety during the pre-construction phase of your project. The HSE define their duties as follows.

The Principal Designer must:

  • plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety in the pre-construction phase. In doing so they must take account of relevant information (such as an existing health and safety file) that might affect design work carried out both before and after the construction phase has started

  • help and advise the client in bringing together pre-construction information, and provide the information designers and contractors need to carry out their duties

  • work with any other designers on the project to eliminate foreseeable health and safety risks to anyone affected by the work and, where that is not possible, take steps to reduce or control those risks

  • ensure that everyone involved in the pre-construction phase communicates and cooperates, coordinating their work wherever required

  • liaise with the principal contractor, keeping them informed of any risks that need to be controlled during the construction phase


Further information on the duties of Principal Designers as defined by the Health and Safety Executive can be found by clicking here.


Who is the principal contractor? When you are ready to begin construction work which involves more than one trade, a Principal Contractor must be appointed. For most domestic projects this will be the case and the contractor who undertakes to coordinate the other trades should be appointed as Principal Contractor. The primary duties of the Principal Contractor are to prepare a construction phase health and safety plan and manage the works safely on the site. The HSE define the scope of the role as follows.

 The Principal Contractor must:

  • plan, manage, monitor and coordinate the entire construction phase

  • take account of the health and safety risks to everyone affected by the work (including members of the public), in planning and managing the measures needed to control them

  • liaise with the client and principal designer for the duration of the project to ensure that all risks are effectively managed

  • prepare a written construction phase plan before the construction phase begins, implement, and then regularly review and revise it to make sure it remains fit for purpose

  • have ongoing arrangements in place for managing health and safety throughout the construction phase

  • consult and engage with workers about their health, safety and welfare

  • ensure suitable welfare facilities are provided from the start and maintained throughout the construction phase

  • check that anyone they appoint has the skills, knowledge, experience and, where relevant, the organisational capability to carry out their work safely and without risk to health

  • ensure all workers have site-specific inductions, and any further information and training they need

  • take steps to prevent unauthorised access to the site

  • liaise with the principal designer to share any information relevant to the planning, management, monitoring and coordination of the pre-construction phase

More information about the role of the Principal Contractor can found on the HSE website here.


The process

The following flowchart walks you through the transfer of client duties from a domestic client to other duty holders.




In our experience most domestic projects under £250,000.00 ex VAT do not have more than 20 working on site at anyone time or exceed 500 working days so notification to the need for formal notification to the HSE is unlikely



What is a Health and Safety File (HSF)?

The HSF is a record of information, which focuses of identified risk. The contents will alert those involved in a project of the health and safety risks that will need to be taken account of during subsequent maintenance, repair or other construction work including demolition.



What information should be included in the Safety File?

1.    A brief description of the work carried out.

2.    Any hazards that have not been eliminated through the design and construction processes, and how they have been addressed (e.g. surveys or other information concerning asbestos or contaminated land).

3.    Key structural principles (e.g. bracing, sources of substantial stored energy – including pre- or post-tensioned members) and safe working loads for floors and roofs.

4.    Hazardous materials used (e.g. lead paints and special coatings).

5.    Information regarding the removal or dismantling of installed plant and equipment (e.g. any special arrangements for lifting such equipment).

6.    Health and safety information about equipment provided for cleaning or maintaining the structure.

7.    The nature, location and markings of significant services, including underground cables; gas supply equipment; fire-fighting services etc.

8.    Information and as-built drawings of the building, its plant and equipment (e.g. the means of safe access to and from service voids and fire doors).


Most of the relevant items mentioned above survey etc are taken account of / collected in the normal pre-construction design process. With specific reference to no "b" -  Asbestos, for pre-1980s houses, we would always require homeowners to have an Asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition Survey undertaken. More information about asbestos and the survey can found on our separate blog "Asbestos and Domestic Projects".



What is a construction Phase plan

The construction phase plan records arrangements for managing significant health and safety risks associated with the construction of the project and is the basis for communicating those arrangements to those involved in the construction phase. It outlines the health and safety arrangements and site rules taking into account any industrial activities taking place on site, and, where applicable, must include specific measures concerning any work involving the particular risks identified.

We would direct you to the following HSE document Construction Phase Plan (CDM 2015) What you need to know as a busy builder


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