Ignoring CDM construction regulations will cost money and lives, expert warns

Alan Robson, co-founder of Project Four, has spoken out after the director of a builder in Yorkshire was fined £30,000 by a court following the partial collapse of a roof. Tony McDonough reports

worker, building, construction
The latest CDM regulations were introduced in 2015


Confusion and ignorance around CDM (construction, design and management) regulations has the potential to cost lives in the UK building industry, a North West expert is warning.

Alan Robson, co-founder of CDM consultancy Project Four, has spoken out after the director of a construction company in Yorkshire was fined £30,000 by a court following the partial collapse of a roof during work on a new apartment block.

It was found that the roof structure had been poorly designed and was not able to withstand the loads placed on it. Three workers on site at the time luckily escaped injury when it collapsed.

According to Alan, who runs Project Four with fellow director Max Meadows, it is not uncommon for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to target building contractors, saying: “Even on the best-run sites, a contravention of CDM regulations is not difficult to find.”

But he adds the HSE is also increasingly focusing on other professionals in the supply chain, including designers, principal designers and clients. He has witnessed HSE inspectors attending design team meetings and requesting evidence from designers and clients to demonstrate their compliance with CDM 2015.

“We expect the HSE will continue to target contractors but this focus is now clearly widening and architects and clients are increasingly being asked to demonstrate how they comply with the legislation,” said Alan.

Brownfield sites

The Yorkshire development was taking place on land previously occupied by a public house and Alan said that it is on brownfield developments such as this where the risks are greatest and a lack of understanding of CDM regulations is creating the potential for serious injuries and even deaths among construction workers.

Current CDM regulations were introduced in 2015 and created the role of ‘principal designer’. This is a statutory appointment to be made by the client, usually the architect or the main contractor. If the client fails to appoint a principal designer then ultimate responsibility for CDM compliance falls on them.

Project Four
Alan Robson and Max Meadows, co-directors of Project Four


Hybrid support

Project Four, based at Avenue HQ on Liverpool’s waterfront, has now established itself as the ‘go-to’ consultancy in the North West and other parts of the UK where it takes on the role of ‘advisor to the principal designer’. It also also increasingly offering hybrid project support to architects, contractors and clients.

It is currently performing this duty on projects worth hundreds of millions of pounds, including the construction of a hotel at Liverpool’s new Cruise Terminal as well as a number of residential developments, including Cornbrook in Manchester, Flax Place in Leeds and Leon House 1 in Croydon. 

It has also spent the last 12 months visiting private sector clients, architects, engineers and contractors to deliver bespoke CDM strategy workshops – which, Alan Says, have proven “hugely popular and successful”.

Principal designer

He added: “The ‘principal designer’ is responsible for ensuring compliance with the CDM regulations. This is a crucial responsibility on all projects and particularly on brownfield sites which often involve either demolition or conversion of existing structures and therefore can present contractors with more complex challenges.

“Ensuring compliance with CDM regulations requires a specialist knowledge that many developers and contractors don’t possess. Muddling through isn’t an option. If you don’t have that level of expertise then you have to bring someone in that does.

“It may be tempting to believe you can avoid the expense and take your chances. But the case in Yorkshire illustrates the folly of that mindset. In this case, the director of the company received a hefty fine – but the consequences for his workers could have been much worse.

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