Carrying out building work: your responsibilities

Whatever the size of your traditional building repair and maintenance project, as a property owner the decisions you make have an impact on the health, safety and welfare of workers and others affected by the work.

  • Discover safety regulations you need to be aware of
  • Learn whether you're a domestic or commercial client
  • Find out your main duties as a property owner


Health and safety on building projects

Whatever the size of your traditional building repair and maintenance project, as a property owner the decisions you make have an impact on the health, safety and welfare of workers and others affected by the work.

As defined by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, ‘construction work’ includes  –

The construction, alteration, conversion, fitting out, commissioning, renovation, repair, upkeep, redecoration or other maintenance (including cleaning which involves the use of water or an abrasive at high pressure, or the use of corrosive or toxic substances), de-commissioning, demolition or dismantling of a structure;

  • Virtually everyone involved in a construction project has legal duties under Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015). CDM 2015 places the responsibility for managing health and safety of a construction project on three main duty holders:The Client
  • The Principal Designer
  • The Principal Contractor

Note that CDM 2015 regulations apply if the work is carried out by someone else on the domestic client’s behalf. If the householder carries out the work themselves, it is classed as DIY and CDM 2015 does not apply.The Health & Safety Executive provide guidance to help you understand your responsibilities on building projects.

Which client type am I for my traditional building project?

Construction Design and Management (2015) legislation recognises two types of client: domestic clients and commercial clients.

Who is a domestic client for building projects?

Domestic clients have construction work carried out for them but not in connection with any business e.g. usually work done on their own home or the home of a family member.

Main duties – What you need to do

CDM 2015 does not require domestic clients to carry out client duties as these normally pass to other duty holders working on the building:

  • To the Contractor for single contractor projects
  • To the Principal Contractor for projects with more than one building contractor

However, the domestic client can instead choose to have a written agreement with the Principal Designer to carry out the client duties. This flowchart shows the transfer of client duties from a domestic client to other duty holders.

Local authorities, housing associations, charities, landlords and other businesses may own domestic properties but they are not a domestic client for the purposes of CDM 2015.

Guidance on what a domestic client needs to do to carry out their duties under CDM 2015 is available on the Health and Safety Executive website and this Construction Industry Training Board guide (PDF) (Section 6 and Annex D).

Who is a commercial client for building projects?

Commercial clients have construction work carried out as part of their business. This could be an individual, partnership or company and includes property developers and companies managing domestic properties.

Note that commercial clients include local authorities, housing associations or other landlords who own domestic properties.

Main duties – What you need to do

CDM 2015 regulations require commercial clients to make suitable arrangements for managing a project, including making sure:

  • other duty holders are appointed as appropriate
  • sufficient time and resources are allocated
  • relevant information is prepared and provided to other duty holders
  • the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor carry out their duties
  • welfare facilities are provided

You can find further guidance on what a commercial client needs to do to under CDM 2015 on the Health and Safety Executive website.

The Construction Phase plan

Under CDM 2015 regulations a construction phase plan is required for every construction project. Small scale routine building works are not exempted.  For example:

The construction phase plan should be prepared by the contractor, or principal contractor if more than one contractor is working on the project, and does not need to be complicated.

The plan should be:

  • proportionate to the size and nature of the work, and the risks involved
  • workable and realistic
  • sufficiently developed to allow work to start on site
  • regularly reviewed and added to as new trades start
  • As the client you may want to ask if the Construction Phase Plan has been produced.

The Health & Safety Executive has produced guidance and a useful template for contractors undertaking small scale projects –