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Construction Site Personal Injury Claims: There may be Several Liable Parties

Posted on July 16, 2018

The Construction, Design and Management Regulations (CDM 2015) are produced by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The Regulations enshrine the legal requirements to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all those people who work on construction projects. The Regulations are applicable to all aspects of construction work, including repairs, extensions and new builds.

Duty holders

Under the Regulations, there are 5 duty holders, each responsible for the maintenance of standards, quality and safety. The duty holders are the:

  • Client – the organisation or individual, domestic or commercial, who is having the construction work carried out. The duties of a domestic client are usually transferred to the principal contractor.
  • Principal Designer – this is the person with ultimate control over the pre-construction phase of the project
  • Principal Contractor- the employee appointed to manage a project when there is more than one contractor involved
  • Designer – anyone involved in the preparation or modification of the design of a project
  • Contractor- the individual or company doing the construction work

According to the HSE website, these 5 duty holders must control and reduce risks to levels as ‘low as is reasonably practicable’. There are many different ways to manage and monitor health and safety on a construction site and these steps can include:

  • Planning work so that health and safety risks are identified and eliminated
  • Preparing a health and safety file which considers how potential hazards have been, or are currently being managed
  • Liaising with other duty holders and coordinating safety measures
  • Engaging the other workers in matters of health and safety, providing sufficient training and appropriate safety equipment
  • Reporting dangerous conditions
  • Preventing authorised access to the site

Why these regulations matter

Why should there be specific health and safety regulations just for the construction industry? Perhaps unsurprisingly, according to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive’s own website, the construction industry remains a relatively dangerous place to work. Although just around 5% of the nation-wide workforce are employed in construction, each year around 80,000 of these workers suffer from work-related ill health, 64,000 suffer non-fatal injuries and a staggering 30 die while at work.

The HSE website also lists the different types of injuries that have occurred on construction sites. These include non- fatal injuries such as slips, trips and falls and injury while carrying heavy objects. Fatal injuries have resulted from falls from a height, being trapped by something collapsing or being struck by a moving vehicle.

Breaches of Construction, Design and Management Regulations: Consequences to duty holders

The HSE is responsible for enforcing the Construction, Design and Management Regulations. However it is the Court’s responsibility to determine if laws were broken and who bears ultimate responsibility. The delegation of health and safety responsibilities to the 5 separate duty holders should ensure a more holistic and comprehensive approach to the welfare of the construction site workforce: on the other hand, it also raises the likelihood that in any compensation claim for an injury on site, there could be several parties deemed liable.

Despite the best effort of the HSE, breaches of health and safety continue and frequently make the news. Just last month it was reported in the Belfast Telegraph that a roofing sub-contractor was fined £50,000 after admitting responsibility for the death of a joiner at a construction site in Londonderry. 35 year old Philip Fenwick died after a roof truss struck him on the back of the head, while he was working at the site. Judge Gemma Loughran QC determined that the defendant failed in his duty to ensure the health and safety of his employees.

There is also the recent case of 64 year old Michael Allen, who was held responsible for the death of a worker following a fall on site. The HSE found that Allen’s company failed to carry out health and safety plans for the construction site, did not provide adequate training and equipment was inadequate. In court, Allen was fined over £250,000.

Personal Injuries on Construction Sites

The Construction, Design and Management Regulations will go some way to preventing injuries on construction sites, on the condition they are adhered to by duty holders and workers and enforced by the HSE and the Criminal Courts. However, by its very nature, construction is risky, which unfortunately means that for the foreseeable future, personal injury and deaths will continue to be a feature of working in that industry.

Personal injury lawyers will continue to rely on breaches of the regulations as evidence of negligence in civil claims for compensation for injured parties.

The Construction, Design and Management Regulations (CDM 2015) may be viewed in full at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l153.pdf.

To speak with a lawyer in our Personal Injury team, please contact us on 020 7485 8811 or fill in an online form.

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