The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 came into force on 6th April 2015, replacing the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The legislation was introduced with the aim of protecting people from the risks of construction work through implementing systematic frameworks of risk management. Importantly, this legislation places responsibility on all those who are working on a building to manage health and safety risks, including: the designers, the construction team, those in charge of maintenance and any other contractors. This is particularly important in regard to asbestos, as asbestos containing materials (ACMs) can easily be disturbed in construction and refurbishment projects. Disturbing asbestos releases fibres which can easily be inhaled, risking the development of serious diseases and in some cases death.
Firstly, anybody working on a project has a duty to report to their senior if they become aware of any health and safety risk, whether it relates to them or to anyone else. Designers (and namely the principal designer) are responsible for health and safety in the pre-construction phase. This means that construction can be carried out without risks to health and safety, as far as possible. Designers must consider the health and safety of:
- Those carrying out the construction work
- Anybody else who is likely to be affected by the construction work
- Those cleaning or maintaining the structure
- Anyone that will be using the structure as a workplace.
Where these risks cannot be eliminated, they should be reduced or at least controlled. Additionally, information about any health and safety risks must be provided to the principal designer as well as included in the health and safety file. Contractors have important roles in making and upholding the construction health and safety plan and the health and safety file, which we will explore next.
Construction Phase Health and Safety Plan & Health and Safety File
A construction health and safety plan should include: health and safety arrangements, site rules, and specific measures regarding industrial activities on the site. It must be drawn up by the principal contractor with assistance from the principal designer, before the construction site is set up. The plan should be reviewed, updated and revised throughout the period of construction work.
The health and safety file should contain any information regarding the project that may be required in future projects to protect the health and safety of any person. The file should be complied by the principal designer during the pre-construction phase and reviewed, updated and revised regularly. The principal contractor should supply the principal designer with any relevant information throughout the project so the file can be updated accordingly.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring material which has been used in the construction industry for many years. Thankfully its use is now banned, but a vast array of UK buildings still contain the hazardous substance. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can result in the development of lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer of the lung lining), asbestosis and pleural disease. Regarding asbestos, it is of paramount importance that any information about ACMs is passed on to designers and contractors. It should be included in both the construction health and safety plan and the health and safety file.
Why are the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Important?
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 promote communication between the designers, contractors and the client, which facilitates formation of clear and unambiguous health and safety management plans. As mentioned earlier, exposure to asbestos can result in the formation of serious disease and lead to considerable suffering and loss of life. In the light of this information, health and safety should be at the forefront of our minds during both planning and construction. Promoting a health and safety compliance culture is crucial as adhering to the regulations is the law. Engaging in health and safety training courses can help equip us all with the knowledge and skills required to implement safe practices.