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Duties of Client

CDM (GB) Knowledge Base


Clients have a major role to play in the promotion of a systematic approach to the management of health and safety in construction. They will set the tone of the project and make decisions crucial to its development. It is vital that sufficient time and resources are allowed to enable the CDM duty holders to carry out their responsibilities safely.

The client is the person for whom the project is carried out. In the case of notifiable projects, clients must appoint a Principal Designer and a Principal Contractor. Those clients without construction expertise must rely on the advice of professional experts on how best to meet their duties, but both the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor will need the clients support and input to be able to carry out their work effectively. The client remains responsible for ensuring that client duties are met.

Deciding who the Client is

In some instances it may be unclear who the client is. To avoid confusion, this must be resolved at an early stage. The following factors will need to be taken into account.

  • Who ultimately decides what is to be constructed, where, when, and by whom?
  • Who is at the head of the procurement chain?
  • Who arranges for the design work?
  • Who engages the contractor?
  • Who initiates the work?

A wide range of bodies may be clients under CDM e.g. school governors, local authorities, insurance companies, PFI and PPP initiatives (Domestic clients are a special case and have slightly different duties under CDM).

If there is still doubt, then all of the possible clients can appoint one of them as the only client for the purposes of CDM 2015. Someone will always be the client. It is in the interest of all possible contenders to identify who it is. If not, they run the risk that all will be considered to carry the clients duties under the regulations.

Duty of Designer to Advise Client

Under the Regulations, it is the responsibility of the designer(s) on the project to make the client aware of his/her duties. This should be done formally.

Designer by Default

If the client specifies a particular material or method to be used in the construction process, this will make him a designer under the CDM2015 Regulations and as such he will be responsible for the designer's duties i.e. carrying out a risk assessment, and the resulting health and safety implications.

Failure to Appoint

If a client fails to appoint either the principal designer or principal contractor, then the client must carry out their duties.

Duties of Client - Checklist

The main duties of the client on all construction projects are to:

  • Ensure that suitable management arrangements are made for the project
  • Select & appoint a competent and resourced Principal Designer.
  • Select & appoint a competent and resourced Principal contractor.
  • Notify the relevant enforcing authority of certain projects (notifiable).
  • Ensure sufficient time and resources are allowed for all stages of the project.
  • Provide the pre-construction information (PCI) to the designers and contractors.
  • Verify the sufficiency of the construction phase plan (CPP) prior to construction commencement.
  • Verify that suitable welfare facilities are in place prior to construction commencement.
  • Contractor training - Ensure the necessary information, instruction and training is received and appropriate supervision is provided to comply with the regulations.
  • Ensure co-operation and co-ordination between the client's employees and client contractors with the project contractors where the client's work activities overlap the construction work and to enable others to perform their duties.
  • Subsequent to receipt of the health and safety file from the Principal Designer, maintain the information up to date and provide access to any person who needs to see it for health and safety purposes.

Management arrangements

The client has a key influence on the outcome of a construction project because the project is originated by the client, often the client sets the overall programme and the client pays for the work to be executed. Clients should set the ground rules for health and safety even though the extent of their involvement in the project will not depend upon their own knowledge and experience of construction processes.

Large clients may have their own comprehensive in-house design team, and even their own direct labour contracting team. There is nothing to prevent such clients using these resources to provide the roles of Lead Designer, designer or principal contractor providing they are competent to do the work in accordance with the regulations. Smaller clients will need to buy-in the expertise they need and may need to seek professional advice on the competence of appointments they make.

On all projects the client must verify that adequate management arrangements are in place to ensure that the roles, functions and responsibilities of all members of the project team are clear and understood. The organisations and individuals working on the project should know their roles, responsibilities and authorities and their relationship with other members of the team.

This will include:

  • checking that there is good co-operation and communication between designers and contractors;
  • checking that there is adequate protection for the client's workers and/or members of the public;
  • checking to make sure that adequate welfare facilities have been provided by the contractor; and
  • checking that the arrangements which the contractor agreed to make to control key risks on site have been implemented.

On notifiable projects the Client is required to notify the relevant authority involve design audits and site inspections and audits. On non-notifiable projects the client will either have to perform these checks themselves or obtain this assistance from others, which may be a person or organisation who has the competence to act in this role, for example the principal designer or principal contractor or a third party with relevant knowledge and expertise.

Time and resources

The regulations also require the client to allow sufficient time and other resources for all parties involved to fulfil their health and safety responsibilities. On notifiable projects, the principal designer's advice will be crucial in deciding the timescales. On non-notifiable projects the client still needs to seek advice on the time and resources proposed to be allocated to the different phases of a project. However, if a client imposes unrealistic time constraints because of commercial pressure the whole project will be flawed at the outset from a health and safety point of view.

The client must allow sufficient time for the design, design reviews, planning, hazard identification, risk assessment, specification of risk control measures, selection of contractors, mobilisation, sequencing and scheduling of work, and carrying out construction. Consideration must be given to contingencies (e.g. refurbishment in a building known to have contained asbestos where pockets might still remain, in that only an Asbestos Management Survey has been performed).

Pre-construction information

The client must provide information regarding the project, site and other relevant issues to the designers and contractors on all projects. This information will be included within the 'pre-construction information' sometimes referred to as the PCI. This information will be useful for the designers in their attempts to eliminate or reduce risks by their design decisions, for tendering contractors to properly evaluate the work and the associated risks and the contractors performing the work in their management of health and safety on the site.

The client must make this information available early enough for the designers to assess the information for the elimination and reduction of risk by design.

The client must provide all the information in his/her possession that pertains to the site and any other information that could be reasonably obtained. This information should be supplied as soon as possible in the project to enable the designers to take the information into account when making their design and planning decisions. Some of this information would also be supplied to tendering contractors so that they can take this into account when tendering for the work, or allow the construction team, in a situation where tenders are not required, to effectively plan the construction work.

The pre-construction information may be discrete pieces of information in the form of drawings, reports, surveys, etc, either in electronic or hard copy format, with an index provided to all of the project team so that the information available is known to all.

CDM2015 Guidance, Appendix 2 states:

Pre-construction information is defined as information about the project that is already in the client's possession or which is reasonably obtainable by or on behalf of the client. The information must:

  1. be relevant to the particular project;
  2. have an appropriate level of detail; and
  3. be proportionate given the health or safety risks involved.

Ensure co-operation and co-ordination

The client shall establish arrangements for confirming the adequate co-operation and co-ordination between all members of the project team. This is effectively performed by the Principal Designer and the Principal Contractor and the client may just monitor their performances.

On all projects the client will need to be intimately involved in the project design and the project construction processes in order to confirm that the various parties are co-operating with each other and co-ordinating their designs and/or construction activities to comply with the legislation and produce an efficient and effective project.

Where the client cannot, or is unwilling to, cease his normal work activities while construction work takes place on the site, an interface problem can arise. This interface problem may cause the client's employees being put at risk by the construction work and, more rarely, construction workers being put at risk by the client's activities. In these cases the client must provide the management and co-ordination requirements as part of the 'pre-construction information' and liaise closely with the contractors to ensure that the co-ordination is effective during the construction phase.

As construction work develops and changes from day to day the health and safety management arrangements, as contained within the construction phase plan on notifiable projects, may need frequent adjustment. On-going cooperation and co-ordination will be needed at each phase, possibly requiring regular meetings involving the client and contractors' on-site management. Each party is responsible for briefing its own staff on co-ordination requirements and the precautions to be taken. This will be very important where constant re-routing of traffic and pedestrians is necessary. Whenever possible, construction work should be completely separated off from the client's work activities.

Appoint the Principal Designer and the Principal Contractor

A key part of the client's role on notifiable projects is to appoint a competent principal designer and competent principal contractor. The principal designer will oversee the design and planning of a project and assist the client in the performance of the client's duties. The principal contractor is responsible for managing the health and safety aspects of the construction.

The principal designer should be appointed as soon as possible after commencement of the initial design. The principal contractor should be appointed as soon as the client knows enough about the project to select a suitable contractor, so that they can make contributions to the health and safety of the design. Only one principal designer and one principal contractor may be appointed to the project at any one time, although the appointments may be changed.

On non-notifiable projects the client still has duties to perform under the regulations. The client may well have formal arrangements in place with the principal designer and principal contractor which state how the project is to be managed and subsequent duties discharged.

Transitional Arrangements

CDM 2015 recognises that there will be construction projects that start before the Regulations come into force on 6 April 2015 and continue beyond that date. For these projects, the following transitional arrangements apply. Where there is, or is expected to be, more than one contractor on a project:

  • where the construction phase has not yet started and the client has not yet appointed a CDM co-ordinator, the client must appoint a principal designer as soon as practicable
  • if the CDM co-ordinator has already been appointed the client must appoint a principal designer to replace the CDM co-ordinator by 6 October 2015, unless the project comes to an end before then
  • in the period it takes to appoint the principal designer, the appointed CDM co-ordinator should comply with the duties contained in Schedule 4 of CDM 2015. These reflect the duties placed on CDM co-ordinators under CDM 2007 rather than requiring CDM co-ordinators to act as principal designers, a role for which they may not be equipped

The Construction Phase Plan

On all projects the client must ensure that the construction phase plan is sufficiently developed by the principal contractor prior to allow the construction to commence. For the construction phase plan to be considered to be sufficiently developed it must contain the health and safety management systems and arrangements for the specific project and site(s) and the risk assessments and method statements for the initial work activities.

All projects involving demolition or sites or activities involving high levels of risk it is recommended that a written plan, approximating the construction phase plan should be produced and reviewed.

The principal designer will assist the client in assessing the construction phase plan prior to construction commencement.

CDM2015 Guidance, Appendix 2 states:

The construction phase plan must record the arrangements for managing the significant health and safety risks associated with the construction phase of a project. It is the basis for communicating these arrangements to all those involved in the construction phase so it should be easy to understand and be as simple as possible.

In considering what information is included, the emphasis is that it:

  1. is relevant to the project;
  2. has sufficient detail to clearly set out the arrangements, site rules and special measures needed to manage the construction phase; but
  3. is still proportionate to the scale and complexity of the project and the risks involved.

The plan should NOT include documents that get in the way of a clear understanding of what is needed to manage the construction phase, such as generic risk assessments, records of how decisions were reached or detailed safety method statements.

Other Transitional Arrangements

CDM 2015 recognises that there will be construction projects that start before the Regulations come into force on 6 April 2015 and continue beyond that date. For these projects:

  • pre-construction information, construction phase plans or health and safety files provided under CDM 2007 are recognised as meeting the equivalent requirements in CDM 2015
  • any project notified under CDM 2007 is recognised as a notification under CDM 2015
  • a principal contractor appointed under CDM 2007 will be considered to be a principal contractor under CDM 2015

In all other circumstances, the requirements of CDM 2015 apply in full from 6 April 2015.

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