CDM Changes for Northern Ireland

Jonathan Park
CDM (NI) 2016 came into force in Northern Ireland in August 2016 and affects most people and organisations involved in construction projects.

The Construction (Design and Management Regulations) (Northern Ireland) 2016 (CDM NI 2016) provide the legal requirements for managing the health, safety and welfare of construction projects throughout Northern Ireland.

The new regulations revoke the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007, with one of the main changes being the introduction of the principal designer role.

The Legal Duties of the Client

The new regulations also place greater emphasis on the legal duties of the client. These include the obligation to ensure that both a principal designer and a principal contractor are appointed where more than one contractor will be working on the project, regardless of the project’s size, duration or risk.

Clients must now ensure that the HSENI is notified of their project (when the appropriate new threshold is triggered). A suitable construction phase plan must be produced and the management arrangements for the health and safety of the site must be maintained throughout the project's duration.

The main changes include:

  • The role of CDM co-ordinator has been removed and various duties have been recast, including client duties and general duties
  • The introduction of the new role of principal designer
  • A client is required to appoint a principal designer as well as a principal contractor in any project where there is more than one contractor working on the project
  • A construction phase plan is required for ALL construction projects
  • The regulations apply to domestic projects and domestic clients, although most of the duties will be carried out by the contractor, principal contractor, or principal designer.

Northern Ireland's Transition Period

Here in Northern Ireland, there’s a transition period of 12 months – twice as long as Great Britain, where the transition period was possibly not long enough for satisfactory outcomes. A principal designer must be appointed on any existing projects which are not completed before the expiry of the transition period.

The new regulations also place greater emphasis on the legal duties of the client.

Principal Designer Role

The principal designer role fulfils the function of a safety and health co-ordinator for the project preparation stage, which was previously carried out by the role of CDM co-ordinator. The principal designer now also co-ordinates all health and safety matters relating to the pre-construction phase of the project, alongside the overall planning, management and monitoring of the pre-construction phase.

Beware The Myths

  • The architect will be the principal designer going forward and will not be able to reject a request from the client to undertake the role. No, this is incorrect. There is no obligation for the client to appoint any particular profession or member of the design team to the principal designer role.
  • The principal designer must be the lead designer. No, this is incorrect 
  • The role of the principal designer automatically defaults to the Design & Build principal contractor. No, this is incorrect. It is the client’s duty to appoint.

Principal Designer's Responsibilities 

  • They must be a member of the design team
  • They must be able to control/co-ordinate the health and safety aspects of the design process
  • They must be appointed by the client, in writing 
  • They must have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and training to undertake the role

Third Party Advisors

The new regulations allow for a principal designer to be assisted by a third party advisor in discharging their duties, but this does not absolve them of their legal responsibilities. Similarly, the client can also appoint an advisor to assist in discharging the client’s duties, but again this does not absolve the client of their legal and statutory obligations. As the principal designer and client’s advisor duties are distinct and separate, there is no conflict of interest in these roles being undertaken by the same person or organisation.

As the principal designer and client’s advisor duties are distinct and separate, there is no conflict of interest in these roles being undertaken...

Faithful+Gould Can Help You With The New System

Having already benefited from Great Britain’s learning curve, Faithful+Gould is ideally placed to help NI clients adapt to the new system. Our policies and procedures are in place, tried and tested, and our safety services team offers a variety of services that support clients’ health and safety responsibilities. We can:

  • Undertake the principal designer role in full (provided the project is such that we can properly control and influence the design process).
  • Act as a principal designer advisor to architects or other designers who have been appointed as the principal designer by their clients. This is useful where a designer lacks the skills, knowledge, experience and training to undertake the pre-construction health and safety aspects of the role.
  • Perform a stand-alone client CDM advisor role appointed directly by and to the client. 
  • Provide a combination of the above, creating the common CDM consultant role which encompasses both the duties of the principal designer and client advisor role.

Our NI team is already supporting clients and designers with the new roles. To help NI clients understand the scope of the changes, we have also been hosting lunchtime seminars where the new responsibilities are clearly outlined and explained, and the myths debunked. These events have been well received and more are in the pipeline.

We have additionally developed a new principal designer training course, covering the delivery of the role and design risk management. Our course has been accredited by Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and will shortly be offered to our waiting list of interested clients.

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