Maintaining Health and Safety on Construction Projects

The working environment can often present risks to serious injury, and in some circumstances, fatalities. Construction sites present a significant challenge, with moving plant & machinery, working at height from scaffolding and the risk of subsidence of deep trenches, along with common slips, trips and falls and accidents that could render an individual incapacitated.

The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) was introduced to protect people’s rights not to suffer injury or have their health damaged. It holds employers accountable for ensuring the safety of their workers, making it a criminal offence for serious breaches of Health and Safety practices. In 1974 when the Act was first introduced, there were 651 fatalities to employees. Fast forward to 2017 and these figures stood at 137 worker deaths, with 30 workers fatally injured on construction site. Although a remarkable improvement, more needs to be done to ensure good Health and Safety practice.

What can construction project teams do to ensure good Health and Safety practice?   

Originally established on 1994 and revised in 2007, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) sets out to implement the minimum Health and Safety requirements on temporary or mobile construction sites, with a view to support improved co-ordination, increase value for money and improve efficiency. CDM was later revised in 2015 with the main changes to the publication being as follows:

  • Replacement of a CDM Co-ordinator with a ‘Principle Designer’, whereby the responsibility for the co-ordination of the pre-construction phase belongs to the Principle Designer.
  • Recognition of the importance and influence of the ‘Client’ as the head of the supply chain.
  • Splitting competence into component parts of skills, knowledge, training and experience.
  • CDM now applies to domestic projects, although the clients duty will normally be transferred to the contractor or principle contractor.

CDM is now referred to as CDM 2015 and aims to encourage everyone to work together to make Health and Safety an integral part of a construction project, to improve planning and management, have the right people at the right time to manage risks and to encourage the co-operation and co-ordination throughout the project. Not all construction projects will need to comply with CDM 2015, as it is only applicable to projects where a project lasts for more than 30 days and has 20 or more workers working simultaneously, or where a project lasts for more than 500 person days.

What is the project team’s responsibility on a construction project?

As highlighted above, it is the responsibility of all members of a project team to promote and ensure good Health and Safety practice. The responsibility of the parties involved is as follows:


A summary of the client’s duties includes:

  • Make arrangements to manage the project without risk to Health and Safety.
  • Allow sufficient time and resources at all stages.
  • Provide pre-construction Services information to designers and contractors as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that prior to the construction phase beginning, a construction phase plan is established by the principle contractor.
  • Ensure that the principle designer prepares a Health and Safety file for the project.
  • Ensure that those they appoint have the skills, knowledge, training and experience to carry out the role.

Principle Designers

A summary of the Principle Designer’s duties includes:

  • Plan, manage, monitor and co-ordinate the pre-construction phase.
  • Estimate the period required to complete work stages.
  • Take account the general principles of prevention.
  • Ensure Designers comply with their duties.
  • Ensure all persons co-operate with the Client, Principle Designer and each other.
  • Assist the Client with the provision of the pre construction information.
  • Provide pre construction information promptly and in a convenient form to every designer or contractor.
  • Liaise with the Principle Contractor and share information relevant to the planning, management and monitoring of the construction phase.


A summary of the Designers duties include:

  • Must not commence work until they are satisfied that the client is aware of their duties.
  • Eliminate hazards and risks during the design stage.
  • Take into account the principles of prevention when preparing or modifying a design.
  • Eliminate Health and Safety risks that could pose as a future problem after the construction phase is complete, such as maintenance and cleaning.
  • Supply information to the client, other designers and contractors, so they can comply with their duties.

Principle Contractors

A summary of the Principle Contractors duties include:

  • Taking into account the risks to workers, members of the public and client’s employees.
  • Consider risks likely to arise during construction.
  • Provide the right level of supervision, necessary information, instruction and training.
  • Ensure that those carrying out the work are capable.
  • Demonstrate good leadership.
  • Ensure workers understand the risks and control measure, and who has responsibility for Health and Safety.
  • Check standards regularly and take into account the rapidly changing construction environment, and allocate sufficient time and effort.
  • Prevent unauthorised access to site.
  • Review, update and complete the Health and Safety file, if the principle designer’s appointment finishes before the end of the project.


The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) has significantly reduced work place casualties by making good Health and Safety practice mandatory. Construction projects are still a dangerous place however, which requires a good level of communication, co-ordination and monitoring from the project team. CDM 2015 sets out the guidelines for the key individuals involved in a construction project; the Client, Principle Designer, Designers and Principle Contractors. By making Health and Safety an integral part of the construction process as opposed to just an afterthought, project teams can limit significant Health and Safety risks on site.

If you are undertaking a construction project, Haydon Construction can ensure that we play a role in maintaining good Health and Safety practices on site. Our managers are SMSTS trained and experienced in the area of risk management, making us well placed to help co-ordinate, plan and monitor construction work to ensure good Health and Safety practice. For more information about how we can help with your construction project, please contact us for a discussion.

Maintaining Health and Safety on Construction Projects

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