What are CDM regulations and what happens when they are breached?

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations, or CDM 2015, are designed to cover health, safety and welfare in the construction industry, and apply to all construction projects from beginning to end.

Projects can include, but are not limited to, demolition works, refurbishment, new builds, extensions, conversions, and repair and maintenance, and require specific notifications and actions to take place.

What is expected under CDM regulations?

CDM regulations require that projects are carefully planned with health and safety in mind from the earliest stage. Certain participants in each project become duty-holders, and take responsibility for the CDM requirements.

The regulations are intended to help those involved:

  • Carefully plan projects so any risk to health and safety is minimised
  • Co-ordinate with others involved in the project, and co-operate accordingly
  • Ensure a suitably skilled workforce is employed at each stage
  • Assess and fully understand the risks
  • Communicate these risks to others on the project, as well as the control measures that are to be put in place

Who are duty-holders under CDM and what are their main obligations?


CDM regulations changed in 2015, when greater responsibility was placed on the client. Part of a client’s duty under the regulations is to notify the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that construction work is taking place, and to ensure the management of health and safety on-site.

Clients can be divided into commercial and domestic, but domestic clients don’t generally take on these duties. They naturally pass to other duty-holders, such as the contractor, principal contractor, or designer.


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define a designer as, “an organisation or individual whose business involves preparing or modifying designs for construction projects, or arranging for, or instructing, others to do this.”

Designers can include architects, surveyors, engineers, and interior designers, and their duties include eliminating the risk to the health and safety for anyone involved in the project, and effectively managing any risks that cannot be eliminated.

Principal contractor

Where more than one contractor is involved in a project, a principal contractor will be appointed to control health and safety during construction. Their duties include formulating a plan for the construction phase, liaising with other duty-holders to manage the risks, and consulting with workers regarding their health and safety.


A contractor is any person or business employing construction workers, or managing construction work. Under CDM regulations, contractors must make sure the workers they employ or hire have the knowledge, skills and training needed to undertake the tasks assigned, and supervise them during the construction phase.


Workers are employed or hired by the contractor or principal contractor, and can include plumbers, electricians, labourers, scaffolders, painters and decorators. Their duties under CDM include following the rules and procedures laid down, co-operating with other duty-holders, and reporting any risks as they arise.

What happens if CDM regulations are breached?

Failing to fulfil the requirements of CDM regulations by any duty-holder could result in significant fines being handed down, and a range of legal actions including criminal and contractual litigation.

The Health and Safety Executive is a national, independent body tasked with reducing instances of work-related death and injury, and has the power to prosecute duty-holders for breach of these regulations

They will investigate health and safety misdemeanours or any other issues throughout a construction project to ensure the welfare of those involved, as well as the health and safety of members of the public.

Potential criminal procedures

If a fatal accident occurs during a project, the police will investigate the circumstances of the death, with HSE providing specialist support. All duty-holders will face intense scrutiny, with corporate manslaughter charges being a possible outcome. In these cases company directors could face heavy fines, and potential imprisonment.

If substantial fines are imposed for breach of CDM regulations, it can result in insolvency for the businesses concerned. When combined with the possibility of legal action also being taken, it is clear that adhering to the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations is a crucial part of any building or construction project.

For more information and professional guidance on your obligations under CDM, call one of the Building and Project consultancy team at Eddisons. We can advise on the requirements of CDM, how they affect your role within a project, and how to ensure compliance as a duty-holder.

Written by: Adam Finch on Tuesday 03/07/2018