5 years on from key changes to legislation – are you complaint with the law?

Changes to legislation via the Construction (Design and Management Regulations) 2015 (CDM Regs 2015), placed a far greater responsibility upon clients undertaking domestic construction projects than ever before.

Prior to April 2015, domestic construction projects were exempt from the previous CDM legislation.  This situation has changed.

How does this affect you?

This depends upon how much of the work you do yourself.

If you physically carry out all the work yourself, this is a ‘DIY’ project and it therefore falls outside the scope of the Regulations. 

Otherwise, from April 2015, anyone who has construction work carried out on their own home or the home of a family member that is not done as part of a business, whether for profit or not, is classed as a Domestic Client and depending upon the size, timescale and resources engaged, may be within the scope of the Regulations.

In practice, however, your duties under the legislation can be passed to other parties, such as:

  • The Contractor on a project with only one contractor (with no sub-contractors being involved).
  • The ‘Principal Contractor’ on a project where more than one contractor (or a project involving sub-contractors)
  • The ‘Principal Designer’ via a written agreement for the Principal Designer to carry out the client’s duties.

What does this mean?

In practice this means that unless you are doing the work yourself, you MUST:

  • Appoint a ‘Principal Designer’ – this is most likely to be your Architect, but it can be another independent party.


  • Appoint a single contractor, but you must ensure that he carries out everything himself without the use of sub-contractors – a difficult, if not an impossible task given how the building industry is structured.


  • Alternatively, and the most likely option, appoint a “Principal Contractor” to plan and coordinate health and safety during the construction phase of the project.


  • Appoint the Principal Designer to also undertake the role of Principal Contractor, if the Principal Designer has the skills and experience and necessary insurance cover to carry out that role. Again, an unlikely option in practice.

What if you don’t comply?

Not following the CDM Regulations is not only an illegal act, it could result in a dangerous, or even fatal, accident during construction, and ultimately your home may not be fit to live in.  You may also be liable for HSE prosecution!

However, if you appoint a competent and capable Principal Designer and Principal Contractor, you will have fundamentally discharged your client duties under the CDM Regulations.

Traditionally, many self-build projects have been carried out by self-builders simply appointing several trades contractors to undertake different elements of the project rather than appointing a single main contractor. If this is the case, then in relation to the CDM Regulations, the self-builder effectively becomes the main contractor and HSE expect self-builders to demonstrate sufficient health and safety capability to meet the requirements of the law.  ARE YOU COMFORTABLE THAT YOU CAN DO THIS?  If not, then seek professional advice!