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Alexandra Reid

CDM Regulations 2015 - what do schools need to know?

Construction solicitor Alexandra Reid explains how new CDM regulations will impact primary and secondary school building projects

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 15, 2015 | People, policy, politics, money

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) came into force on 6 October 2015. CDM 2015 is the latest update of the CDM Regulations, which have the goal of ensuring that health and safety issues are properly considered during a project’s development so as to reduce the risk of harm to those building, using and maintaining the developments. 

Compliance with CDM 2015 is vital and failure to do so can have serious and far-reaching consequences. These include criminal sanctions, fines and even imprisonment.

A ‘client’ under CDM 2015 is an organisation ‘for whom a construction project is carried out’. In the vast majority of cases, therefore, both primary and secondary schools will be ‘clients’ for the purposes of CDM 2015. CDM 2015, perhaps unfortunately, assumes a level of industry specific knowledge for clients that schools and other educational institutions (against more traditional developers) may understandably not have. This position can be contrasted with that of a client undertaking a ‘domestic’ project where a lesser level of knowledge is assumed. 

Specifically, under CDM 2015 the duties of schools are enhanced compared to those under the previous CDM Regulations published in 2007.

The new regulations will require schools (in their role as ‘clients’) undertaking construction work to:

  • Appoint dutyholders - schools must ensure that other dutyholders are appointed, for example designers and contractors, including a principal designer and principal contractor on projects involving more than one contractor. If a school fails to do this it will have to carry out these roles itself.
  • Ensure relevant skillset – schools must ensure that the parties they appoint have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety risks.  Clients, themselves, must also ensure they are fully equipped to carry out their duties.
  • Ensure compliance by others – schools must ensure that their principal designer and principal contractor carry out their duties.
  • Ensure clear roles of others – schools must ensure that the roles, functions and responsibilities of the project team are clear; that sufficient time and resources are allocated and effective mechanisms are in place to ensure good communication, cooperation and coordination between all parties.
  • Preparation of health and safety file – schools must ensure that their chosen principal designer prepares a health and safety file for the project. 

The various duties required of a school client coupled with the obligation to ensure compliance by others is potentially daunting.  This is particularly the case since these duties cannot be transferred back to the principal contractor in the same way that they can for domestic clients. 

This burden can, however, be eased by ensuring adequate assistance from the project manager or team by: 

  • Appointing an advisor – a school can choose to appoint a ‘CDM Compliance Advisor’ to assist and advise in respect of their duties. The school would still carry out the role of ‘client’ but would have guidance and support along the way.
  • Appoint a Project Manager/Employer’s Agent – a school can also choose to appoint a project manager or similar party tasked with assisting with carrying out its duties, similar to the role of a CDM Compliance Advisor, or choose to delegate those responsibilities entirely to their project manager for them to carry out the duties of the client themselves.  In these circumstances, the appointment letter between the school and project manager would need to very clearly set out the extent to which this role is being delegated and any fee arrangements would need to reflect this. Importantly, the project manager would need to be comfortable and have the expertise to carry out this role.    
  • Managing project meetings to ensure compliance – schools are recommended to arrange frequent, for example fortnightly or monthly, project progress meetings as well as other reporting requirements in order to ensure that all parties are carrying out their roles as required.


As with any new legislation, it is normal that schools take some time to get up to speed with CDM 2015. Against the backdrop of the penalties of non-compliance, it is important to ensure the correct measures are put in place to assist those responsible in carrying out their roles. 

Alexandra Reid is an associate in the Construction Law team at Winckworth Sherwood

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