The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and its requirement for a Client to appoint Principal Contractor are long established having been first issued in 1994 but more recent changes in the 2015 update are catching out some clients. We think that as time progresses HSE will be looking to enforce more regularly on client duties in project both large and small.
The case below will highlight the potential for clients to become liable when they don’t take steps to ensure their own compliance under CDM. If you have questions or need CDM 2015 support please contact us and speak to one of our CDM experts on 01453 800100.
Failure by client to appoint attracts Principal Contractor duties by default
The owner of the block of flats has been prosecuted and fined £200,000 after HSE identified serious safety breaches during demolition of the building in South London.
As is often typical a member of the public was the first to raise the alarm and it was found that the building owner and client had failed to make any appointments under CDM 2015. Without this is place the duties associated with the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor roles would fall to the client – something which is known to us but was most likely an unpleasant surprise for Mr Selliah Sivguru Sivaneswaran.
In October 2016 HSE Inspectors stopped work at site due to workers being exposed to a range of risks including asbestos, falls from height, and fire. When HSE revisited the site for a second time in January 2017 work had restarted whilst the site was still unsafe – despite enforcement notices being served and advice being provided.
The demolition work continued to be carried out by hand with workers climbing onto the unguarded roof and ‘bombing’ debris to the ground. Workers were at risk of falling up to 4m through unguarded openings in the floors and the partly demolished staircase.
Welfare facilities were not provided and there was a significant risk of fire without adequate means of escape. The Court heard that two days before the sentencing hearing HSE had to return to the site and take further action.
The Court heard that despite the foreseeably large financial return from the project, Mr Sivaneswaran put profit before safety and paid cash in hand to untrained workers, failed to engage a site manager, and provided none of the legally-required site documentation.
Mr. Sivaneswaran pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) and 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £1,421.20 in costs.
HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented after the hearing:
“Mr. Sivaneswaran was a commercial client as he was carrying out work as part of a business. When he failed to appoint a Principal Contractor (PC) the the PC duties fell to him.
Thanks to a member of the public reporting the dangerous conditions HSE was able to take action. It was just good fortune that no one had been killed at the site.
Instead of taking the support and advice provided by HSE, Mr. Sivaneswaran continued to let the workers operate in appalling conditions where they were at risk of being killed. He did not even provide a WC or washing facilities”.