Health and Safety in the Construction Industry

Civil Liability

Vicarious liability and Independent Contractors

All employers are held vicariously liable for the acts of their employees while they are carrying out their usual employment. If for instance an employee working in the construction industry causes harm to another employee, a member of the general public or another worker in the form of an independent contractor then the employer will be held vicariously liable for the damage caused.

If the individual who has caused the damage was in fact an independent contractor and was not an employee that that individual will be held liable for the damage caused.

This is a distinction which is particularly important when looking at the construction industry.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations or CDM Regulations came into force in April 2007 and bring together the previous 1994 CDM Regulations and the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 under the same regulatory package.

Definitions Under the CDM Regulations

The CDM Regulations initially provide definitions of the parties which are involved in the construction industry. They are as follows:

  • Clients
  • CDM Coordinators
  • Contractor
  • Designer
  • Principal Contractor

A client is defined as the following as the person who in the course of furtherance of a business:

  • Seeks or accepts the services of another which may be used in the carrying out of a project for him/her

  • Carries out a projects by himself/herself  

CDM Coordinators

The CDM coordinator is the clients adviser to all matters that are concerned with Health and Safety. He must ensure compliance with the requisite sections of the CDM Regulations 2007.


The contractor is defined in the CDM regulations as the person who carries out or manages the construction work.


The designer is defined in the CDM Regulations as the person who prepares of modifies the design or arranges another to do so.

Principal Contractor

The principal contractor is responsible for all contractors and workers on the site and is required to monitor all contractors.

Approved Code of Practice

The CDM Regulations 2007 are supported by an Approved Code of Practice and industry approved guidance. The Health and Safety executive also produces guidance which outlines the fact that one third of all death’s occurring in the workplace happen in the construction industry. It is therefore imperative that the CDM Regulations are in place and followed by everyone involved in the industry.

General Duties applying to all Construction Projects

Part 2 of the CDM Regulations sets out a specific list of duties which shall apply to all construction projects. They are as follows, but not limited to the following:

    Competence – each CDM Coordinator, designer, contractor or principal contractor will be appointed without reasonable steps being taken to ensure he is competent Cooperation – each individual on the site should enlist the full cooperation of those other individuals who are necessary for him to fully complete his task Coordination – activities will be coordinated as is necessary to ensure the requisite health and safety protection of those involved Prevention – the proper design, planning and preparation of a project shall take into account all possible theories of prevention Information – every person designing the structure and contractors appointed by the client will be provided with the requisite pre-construction information.

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For more information on:

  • Notifiable to the Health and Safety Executive
  • What is meant by a Person Day?
  • Obligations for Notifiable Projects
  • Health and Safety Plan