Chartered Surveyor and CEO of Trinity Independent Living, Colin Brunt, discusses the Construction Design Management Regulations and how it may affect Occupational Therapists

The new Construction Design Management Regulations 2015 came into force last summer, bringing all domestic design and installations of any size and value into the scope of the new regs. With little publicity for the revised regulations, many surveyors, designers and contractors have been slow to react. Domestic homeowners who instigate work on their homes also now have responsibilities under the new rules.

How does this affect OTs? Firstly the OT should examine exactly who is the ‘controlling mind’ behind any construction work. When considering the situation of a DFG grant managed by social services OTs or Technical officers, it may be considered that the controlling mind behind any home adaptation is not the recipient of the grant, the customer, but the team behind the process of controlling all aspects of the management of the project. The controlling mind should be considered to be ‘the Client’ and not the recipient of the grant. The regulations give clear responsibilities for Clients who must appoint competent designers and contractors.

The regulations also make clear that any designer appointed by the Client who is involved in domestic building works has prescribed responsibilities. They are named under the regulations as Principle Designers. Their responsibilities start from the feasibility stage of a project considering how any design works will impact on contractors who carry out the works up to the appointment of a suitable and competent contractor who is also named under the regulations as The Principle Contractor. The pre-design aspect of their responsibilities would include a Refurbishment and Demolition Survey which checks for any hazards in the workplace prior to commencement of a project and in particular the presence of asbestos.

For an OT who prepares  scheme drawings and writes the specification, this would seem to bring this aspect of their work under these new rules with little doubt that they are the Principle Designers for that project unless the Client has made separate arrangements for this duty. If the OT is part of a team which includes a technical officer or surveyor, it would be reasonable for this person to take responsibilities for the designer role. However, the arrangements should be made clear between the OT and the other team members as to who is the designer and, as importantly, who is the controlling mind behind the project – The Client.

Why is this so important? Construction work is a dangerous operation and The HSE has issued many new regulations over the years to help prevent and reduce the number of injuries and deaths. The new CDM Regulations is now tackling the smaller contractor who carries out domestic building works in a sector which still has a higher proportion of accidents.

What should OTs do? Firstly don’t panic. Competent Contractors can offer a dual role of Principle Designer and Principle Contractor. However they must be involved at the design stage and have staff who are trained and competent to carry out the Principle Designer role. Alternatively, ensure a competent designer is part of the team when a project is conceived who similarly is competent to carry out this duty along with specialist consultants who will undertake the process on behalf of Clients. The consequences of not complying with the new regulations are serious. Should a reportable accident or incident occur on a project the HSE must be informed. They may investigate and if the regulations have not been followed may issue criminal proceedings under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

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Colin Brunt can be contacted at

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