Good management of Health and Safety on site is crucial to the successful delivery of a construction project. In liaison with the Client and v, Principal Contractors have an important role in managing the health and safety risks of the construction work.
The Principal Contractor is the contractor formally appointed by the Client, who performs or manages construction work. The Principal Contractor is like any other contractor and must comply with the contractor’s duties.
The Principal Contractor has a central role in managing health and safety during the construction phase and does this by developing the Construction Phase Plan. This comes from the pre-construction information compiled by the Principal Designer from details provided by the Client and the Designers. It is the duty of the Principal Contractor to ensure that the Construction Phase Plan is followed.
Regulation 13 of CDM15, sets out the duties the Principal Contractor has during the construction phase.
The Principal Contractor must plan, manage and monitor the construction phase and coordinate matters relating to health and safety during this phase to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, construction work is carried out without risks to health or safety.
In fulfilling the duties above, and in particular when
a. design, technical and organisational aspects are being decided in order to plan the various items or stages of work which are to take place simultaneously or in succession;
b. when estimating the period of time required to complete the work or work stages,
the Principal Contractor must take into account the general principles of prevention.
The Principal Contractor must organise cooperation between contractors (including successive contractors on the same construction site); ensure that other contractors are applying CDM regulations and other legal requirements when executing their work; and ensure that employers and, if necessary for the protection of workers, self-employed persons apply the general principles of prevention in a consistent manner, and in particular when complying with the provisions of Part 4 of Regulation 13; and where required, follow the Construction Phase Plan.
The Construction Phase Plan shall be drawn up as soon as practicable before setting up a construction site and updated, reviewed and revised so it continues to be sufficient.
The Principal Contractor must ensure that a suitable site induction is provided to indicate formal invitation onto site. Before the induction is carried out, any evidence of competency and up to date training should be requested as a check of competency for the job these individuals or groups undertake. Site rules, as part of the construction phase plan, will be provided to contractors’ management and explained to the operatives during the site inductions. Every site worker should receive a site specific induction that highlights particular risks and the controls that are in place to prevent serious injury. Induction will normally start with a commitment to Health and Safety from senior management and end with the individual workers responsibility to their own safety and that of others. Site inductions for those who are not on site regularly such as architects and designers, sales representatives, students or neighbours will be carried out, but will differ from the comprehensive induction that contractors and workers will be instructed in. Whoever the induction is for, it should reflect the hazards they are likely to come up against.
The Principal Contractor must take the necessary steps to prevent access by unauthorised persons to the construction site. The steps taken must reflect the risk level. Extreme security may be required if the site is in proximity to the public, hoardings being erected to keep unauthorised people out. Other sites, such as those in airports, railways or internal works in offices may already have a level of security that keeps out the general public, although additional steps will be required where high risk activities are carried out.
The Principal Contractor must comply with the requirements of Schedule 2 and part 4 of the CDM15 regulations, ensuring that adequate welfare facilities are provided for the site personnel from the start and throughout the construction phase. The Regulations also specifically require that facilities are available from the commencement of works, and that a period is allowed at the start of the contract to allow the site to be set up. It is not acceptable to start on site and only then start thinking about welfare facilities. Toilet and washing facilities, drinking water, changing rooms, lockers and a rest area should be provided before construction work begins.
The Principal Contractor must then confirm that the rules are being followed by everyone, including any visitors to the site. This would normally be achieved by regular site tours, health and safety inspections and health and safety audits.
The actions that the Principal Contractor will take in the event of a non-compliance with the site rules would also have to be specified. The Principal Contractor has powers to give reasonable directions to contractors, and CDM15 regulations requires contractors to comply with the Principal Contractor’s reasonable directions and the site rules.
The Principal Contractor must liaise with the Principal Designer for the duration of the Principal Designer’s appointment and share with them information relevant to the planning, management and monitoring of the pre-construction phase and the coordination of health and safety matters during the pre-construction phase.
The Principal Contractor has an absolute duty to plan, manage and monitor the construction such that the work is performed in a safe and healthy manner, so far as reasonably practicable. As part of this, the Principal Contractor shall facilitate co-operation and co-ordination between contractors, and designers if required, and the application of the general principles of prevention. Ensuring that all interacting parties are safe and comply with the expected local standards and laws, adequately describe the safe system of work and that the work carried out will not create an additional risk to themselves or others as activities are carried out.
The work carried out will be monitored by the Principal Contractor. All precautions, rules, duties, regulations and acts specified in the Construction Phase Plan will be adhered to. This will also establish whether hazards are being eliminated or reduced with adequate controls of processes. This does not mean that the Principal Contractor must directly supervise other contractor’s work.
Duties of a Principal Contractor
In the first section of this article we looked at the formal appointment of the Principal Contractor, planning and management of the Construction Phase Plan, co-operation of other contractors, visitors and the public and observing fluid handover from the Principal Designer to the Principal Contractor. In this section we will continue to review CDM15 Regulation 13: The Duties of the Principal Contractor.
The role of principal contractor is not a new one, but their responsibilities have changed slightly from the 2007 regulations. While taking over the health and safety through the construction phase, the Principal Contractor must continue to liaise with the Client and Principal Designer for the duration of the project to ensure that all risks are effectively managed.
When working for a domestic client, the Principal Contractor will normally take on the Client duties as well as their own as Principal Contractor. If a domestic client does not appoint a Principal Contractor, the role of the Principal Contractor must be carried out by the contractor in control of the construction phase. Alternatively, the domestic client can ask the Principal Designer to take on the Client duties (although this must be confirmed in a written agreement) and the Principal Contractor must work to them as ‘Client’ under CDM15
Fire and Emergency
When the Principal Contractor plans and manages the Health and Safety Plan, details must be drawn up and monitored of how arrangements for emergencies such as fire, bomb threats, means of escape and evacuations are carried out. There must be an emergency plan on site that deals with all foreseeable emergencies.
Consideration must be given to; the size of project, numbers of contractors, height of structure, types of trades, the number of persons likely to be present on the site at any one time, the equipment being used, and any materials and substances used. All this will impact on the requirements for safety in the event of fire and emergency. Everyone must be informed of the plan and it must be tested. Now more than ever these arrangements are under particular scrutiny.There must be suitable escape routes on site that lead to a place of safety. Escape routes must be free from obstructions and clearly signed.
On any project, even those where the principal contractor is the only contractor, the construction phase will need a fire risk assessment and a fire safety plan for the site. There must be adequate fire-fighting equipment, fire detection and fire alarms available in plain sight and on all levels. Fire fighting equipment must be maintained, signed and people must be adequately trained in the emergency procedures; fire drills should be carried out regularly as a check that the controls in place are suitable.
Vehicles, Plant and Equipment
Where possible, vehicular traffic should be separated from pedestrian traffic, the Construction Phase Site Rules should identify how vehicles, plant and pedestrians move safely. Vehicle operators must give warning to those at risk when vehicles and mobile plant move.
On any site, there will be work equipment that is shared by several trades; this may be cranes, cradle access, mast climbers, hoists etc. This is managed by the Principal Contractor and when managed correctly can improve productivity and reduce stress levels, coordinating contractor activities so that they do not create hazards for each other.
Consultation with other Contractors
The Principal Contractor shall make available to the other contractors any documents that will increase safety, health and wellbeing on site, which would include, as appropriate, health and safety file information, site surveys, designers’ information, other contractors’ risk assessments and the relevant sections of the construction phase plan. The Principal Contractor must give other contractors sufficient time to garner resources and properly plan the work.
Regular meetings or other method of including the workforce in consultation should be carried out and recorded if necessary. The views of the workers from all trades relevant at the time are considered, this allows continual improvement of health and safety on site. The size of the site will dictate the format and forum, whether that is on an individual basis or as a group meeting. Sometimes individuals will be nominated to represent a group of workers
In today’s labour market and especially on construction sites, the use of workers of many nationalities should be expected. Special arrangements for workers who speak little English will need to be made and a Principal Contractor should considers the use of pictograms, interpreters and translation services to aid communication of site rules.
Management of Contractor’s Safety Plans
Ensuring that other contractor’s safety plans are in place and that these contractors manage and monitor their own work by inspection and regular audit, the principal contractor must ensure that contractors’ arrangements are satisfactory for consultation with the workers on matters of health and safety, the provision of suitable pre-start briefings, health and safety information and any health and safety training required for on-site tasks.
Accidents and Incidents of Ill Health
There have been significant reductions in the number and rate of injury over the last 20 years or more. Nevertheless, construction remains a high risk industry. Although it accounts for only about 5% of the employees in Britain it still accounts for 22% of fatal injuries to employees and 10% of reported major injuries.
As well as being an indicator of the safety climate on site, contractors have a duty to inform the Principal Contractor of any accidents that may occur and reporting any accidents under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).
To ensure that the health and safety on site is managed appropriately, accurate records of any RIDDOR incidents must be maintained. This includes recording any incidents where a worker has been away from work for more than seven consecutive days.
The role of the Principal Contractor is as diverse as the type of projects they may be managing. By following the legislation of regulation 13 of CDM, they will be doing their part to reduce the 43 deaths that occurred last year on construction sites in the UK.