Are you ready for change? The Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) 2015

CDM 2015 aims to change the way in which clients fulfil their duties under the legislation and furthermore, puts greater emphasis on the…

CDM 2015 aims to change the way in which clients fulfil their duties under the legislation and furthermore, puts greater emphasis on the responsibility of the principal contractor and a new position, the ‘principal designer’, in considering health and safety at the outset of any construction project plan.

In detail

The Temporary or Mobile Construction Site Directive (TMCSD) is a recently-released EU Directive that is the main driver behind the changes to CDM. The Directive had to be implemented into UK law and as a consequence the amendment of CDM 2007 was deemed the most suitable means. The implementation of the Directive has made some critical changes to CDM 2007. Hence, the requirement for the revised legislation known as ‘CDM 2015’.


Who is the client?

The client is in overall charge of the building project but the identity of the client depends on the contract and the classification of school:

  • Local authority – community schools, community special schools, voluntary-controlled and maintained nursery schools.
  • Governing body – academies, free schools, voluntary-aided and foundation schools.
  • Independent schools differ in that the ‘client’ could be the proprietor, governors, trustees or the bursar.

What has changed?

Client duties

There is a greater onus on the client taking responsibility for their site. Reliance on the CDM Co-ordinator to guide the client through every part of the legislation is no longer an option. This includes such tasks as the notifying of applicable projects to the HSE.

An additional requirement is that the client must ensure that where there is more than one contractor at work, a principal contractor and principal designer are contracted to aid the project. This includes assessing that these individuals have the necessary skills, training and experience to fulfil their duties under CDM 2015.

The client must have an accurate estimate of the time the project will take as they will have to notify a construction project to the HSE (F10 notification)  if they will exceed 30 days on site with 20 or more workers working simultaneously or if the project exceeds 500 person days. This has changed slightly from the CDM 2007.

This poses a question as to whether clients are suitably equipped to fulfil their duties in the present climate. Admittedly, the big players in the construction industry may have very knowledgeable project managers who may know the legislation in depth, but could the same be said for schools that require work to be completed on their premises? Possibly not. This is somewhat disappointing as part of HSE’s reasoning for the changes was that it would make the legislation easier to comprehend.

In defence of HSE, CDM 2015 is intended to be clearer and more concise than its predecessor and there are plans to revise the current Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) to make it more user-friendly. This in turn, would give assistance to schools in fulfilling their obligations, as long as the ACoP is written as described.

CDM-Coordinator (CDM-C) role:

The role of the CDM-C is to be abolished. Many of the duties that were once completed by the CDM-C role are now to be completed by an individual in a new role named the principal designer. HSE explain that this is a direct response to the fact that the CDM-C was generally brought into the project too late to influence health and safety at the design and planning stage. As a consequence the principal designer is to be brought into the project as early as possible, to ensure health and safety is considered at the pre-construction and design phase.

The changes may present some difficulties for clients particularly in relation to ensuring that the individual they instruct is sufficiently skilled, knowledgeable and experienced to complete the task.

Although it is not explicitly stated, it is likely that the principal designer will be an architect. In CDM 2007, their role was different; although health and safety was considered in their role, it was not an explicit duty such as in the role of the principal designer in CDM 2015. This may mean that the architect may not have the range skills or experience required to ensure they can satisfy their duties as principal designer. This is particularly the case when you consider that the Principal designer is tasked with designing out potential health and safety issues at earliest opportunity.


The term ‘competence’ was a widely misunderstood term with some individuals assuming that it related to training alone, whereas others assumed that it related to experience. As a result, the explicit use of the term ‘competence’ has been removed in CDM 2015. The legislation calls for any individuals involved in the construction activity i.e. contractors, designers, principal contractors, or principal designers to be able to demonstrate the appropriate skills, knowledge, training and experience to complete their prospective tasks safely.

In reality, nothing has changed. However, in trying to simplify the legislation and avoid ambiguity, HSE has chosen to break down the term ‘competence’ into its substituent parts. The result is a clear steer as to the elements that should be in place prior to a client allowing a contractor/designer to complete works on their behalf. This will aid schools in both assessing whether contractors have the right credentials to complete works safely.

Conclusion and implications

It is important you act now and ensure that you are ready for the changes. CDM-C’s will be given 6 months grace for existing projects, but after October 2015 the role will no longer exist and hence, a principal designer must be used. It is now time to take stock of the current position and ensure that you understand what is required under CDM 2015. It is clear that the client has more responsibility in the revised legislation as they are best placed to set standards throughout a project.

Further guidance

HSE have recently released draft guidance in relation to this legislation. This guidance aims to help in informing clients of what they will have to do in order to satisfy their individual duties. The draft guidance is a pre-cursor to the official approved code of practice (ACoP) that will be released later this year. A link to this guidance:

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