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In my view the situation does not contravene the CDM Regulations. As long as a principal designer is appointed there is no requirement for a direct relationship between him and the client.
I consider that reg 5(1) clearly requires the client to ‘appoint in writing…a designer with control over the pre-construction phase as principal designer’. In the situation we are discussing, there would be a written appointment
by virtue of the novation agreement, and indeed the original contract of appointment that is being novated. The critical issue is therefore whether the appointment has to be direct (between client and principal designer) or can be indirect (between
the contractor and the principal designer).
In my view ‘appoint’ in reg. 5(1) is capable of being interpreted as ‘secure the appointment of’, and would be interpreted in that way. It does not require the client to make a direct appointment. Firstly, guidance on the CDM
Regulations inferentially supports this view. Managing Health and Safety in Construction: CDM Regulations 2015—Guidance on Regulations (HSE Publications, L153), provides at para 37 that:
‘The duration of the principal designer’s appointment should take into account any design work which may continue into the construction phase or any issues that may arise during construction involving the need to make suitable modifications
to the designs. For projects involving early work by a concept architect or project management company where a design and build contractor or novated designer is subsequently involved, it may be appropriate for the initial principal designer
appointment to be ended and a new principal designer appointed.’
It doesn’t go so far as to say by whom the new principal designer needs to be appointed. However, the reference to novation is a reasonably clear indication that our scenario was not intended to be contrary to the scheme of the new CDM Regulations.
Secondly, it is of some relevance that the CDM Regulations envisage that the appointment of the principal designer may be terminated (see reg 11(7)). It would be odd if the client could terminate the appointment, but could not transfer it to
another. (In my view, however, reg 5(1) would be interpreted as requiring a principal designer throughout the pre-construction phase, as defined in reg 2(1).)
I suspect that the effect of the arrangement that we are discussing would be that PDQ (the design/build contractor) would itself have become a designer under the CDM Regulations—it would be a person who ‘arranges for, or instructs, [a] person under [its] control to [prepare or modify a design]’ (definition of designer in reg 2(1)). It would therefore owe the duties in reg 9. So
we have a situation where there is a contractor who is the designer and the principal designer who is appointed to act for him who is also the designer.
I don’t think there needs to be a direct contract or a deed of warranty or anything similar. I think the scheme of regulation is simply to make sure that you have someone there who is looking after the health and safety aspect of the pre-construction
phase—I don’t think how he or she is appointed is too material so long as they are in post and there is effective control over the performance of their duties.
A cautious contractor would be advised to obtain a contractual indemnity from ABC (the architect) should they fail to fulfil their duties under the regulations. That would require a minor modification to cl 1.4 of the City of London Law Society novation
agreement. A cautious employer would want to do the same, particularly because 3.16 of the JCT Design and Bulid contract (as amended by Amendment 1, March 2015) contains an undertaking by the employer (to the contractor) that they will ensure
that the principal designer carries out their duties under the CDM Regulations 2015.
One area that I think might be a potential source of considerable difficulty is the application of the CDM Regulations to framework
agreements and partnering contracts where you have an overarching agreement under which various projects might be instructed to be carried out. It’s unclear whether you can have just one principal designer under the framework contract or
whether you would need separate appointments for each of the underlying contracts.
No, I think they are better drafted than the 2007 ones. They are less prescriptive and in my view the spirit of the regulations are more constructive in approach and practice.
Interviewed by Fran Benson.
The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) govern the management of health, safety and welfare on construction projects in the UK. CDM 2015 replaced the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM
2007). This checklist sets out a summary of the principal differences between the two regimes.
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