Home Features Health and safety CDM Regulations in scaffolding

Understanding your roles and responsibilities with regard to scaffold design according to CDM Regulations 2015 is essential for any scaffold contractor. Craig Varian, from health, safety and temporary works consultancy Consalium, highlights the important aspects and provides tips on meeting your responsibilities.

Two years after the advent of the Construction and Design Management (CDM) Regulations 2015, it is clear that health and safety regulators have a very definite focus on where the construction industry needs to be. The HSE’s business plan for the construction sector has prioritised embedding the CDM Regulations, with the pre-construction stage seen as an area that requires particular attention, while the Office of Rail and Road report on health and safety performance on Britain’s railways has stated its intention to focus efforts on ‘safety by design’.

The words are clear: those that enforce the law are expecting the construction industry to plan, design and assess the risks more effectively before beginning works. But what evidence is there that enforcement bodies are acting on this and what does this mean for scaffolding companies?

Regulation 9 of the CDM Regulations 2015 refers to the duties of a designer. Since the start of 2017, at least 58 formal enforcement notices have been served by the HSE under these regulations. A designer, according to CDM, is an organisation or individual who prepares or modifies a design for a construction project (including the design of temporary works) or arranges for, or instructs, someone else to do so.

Therefore, as soon as a scaffolding company either appoints a scaffold designer or has an input in the design (i.e. advising a Principal Contractor (PC) the best scaffolding method to overcome a problem), they are liable to the criminal health and safety law associated with designers under CDM.

Scaffolding contractors need to ensure that, when compiling a design, they are proactively managing the design stage and not just relying on a scaffold designer. All scaffolders will recognise examples where they have had to adapt a design to meet the conditions they find onsite or where they have been asked by a client/PC to omit a feature (e.g. a protection fan) because it is deemed no longer necessary. In the event of an incident occurring, a regulator will be looking at the decisions taken and the assessment of risk, i.e. who made that decision, based on what assessment and why?

As a scaffold contractor, it is important that any decisions relating to the design are documented. There are five simple tips that can be followed to ensure you are meeting your responsibilities:

  1. Document the decision process relating to ‘scaffold design’, i.e. by keeping minutes of meetings, TG20:13 compliance sheets. If you have to adjust a design or omit a feature, you need to ensure you have the variation design and document why this had to occur.
  2. Undertaking risk assessments that tackle design risk. You will notice that a scaffold designer will provide you with a ‘design risk assessment’. Scaffold companies need to follow this practice within their risk assessment.
  3. Undertake reasonable checks on the suitability of your scaffold designer – get confirmation of qualifications and experience.
  4. Check the designs. If you are unsure on why something has been included or what it means, question it.
  5. Undertake temporary works training and, where possible, follow these procedures.

The CDM Regulations require that, as a designer, you have (and are able to prove) the skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the works and that you record and share health and safety information at the design stage. For most works, these steps can be undertaken by the scaffold company after some training. However, for many contractors where there are more complicated issues, or the amount of information that needs to be completed is large or you just want assurances that you are doing the right thing, then you will need to use a specialist safety company to provide the skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the role.


Craig Varian
Operations director
Consalium Ltd


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