Posted on September 02, 2016

When businesses embark on office fit out projects, they often don’t realise that they’re the ones who are responsible for the overall management of the project under the CDM Regulations 2015.

Whilst you will be hiring an experienced design and fit out company who are, in reality, project managing the implementation of the design and fit out, it is the company commissioning them who are responsible for project issues such as health and safety.

The CDM regulations 2015, which cover construction projects of all sizes, states that whilst you have overall responsibility for the successful management of the project, you should be supported by the principal designer and principal contractor.

For further information regarding the CDM regulations, visit the HSE website.

This post aims to clarify exactly what you are responsible for as part of your fit-out project and some of the other key areas you need to be aware of.

1. Preparing a brief

A critical part of managing a successful construction project is to provide a clear and concise project brief to your contractors and/or designers.

Your project brief should include:

  • A description of the main functional and operational requirements of the finished building or structure
  • An outline of your motivation for starting the project
  • Your expectations during the project, including how health and safety risks are to be managed
  •  An explanation of the design direction you have in mind
  • A single point of contact for any queries or discussions during the project
  •  A realistic timeframe and budget

Whilst your initial brief should set out your general requirements and expectations for the project, it is also important that it outlines your health and safety expectations.

2. Health and Safety

Every project needs to have a health and safety file which should contain the information needed to ensure the health and safety of anyone carrying out any construction, demolition, cleaning or maintenance work on your project or site.

You and your principal contractor / designer should identify and agree the structure, content and format of your health and safety file at the beginning of the project and you should update the file regularly to ensure it contains all the necessary information. You should then pass it to you designer and/or contractor for their contributions.

Your designer/contractors may ask for an explanation of what the completed file contains, such as any key risks that need to be managed as part of the project. 

Once the project is completed, it is your responsibility to keep the health and safety file safe. This can be in an electronic format, on paper, on film or in any other durable form. It is recommended that this file be kept separate from the building maintenance manual to avoid losing information that may be required urgently

3. Pre-construction

As you have overall responsibility for the project, it is up to you to manage your contractors and designers. If more than one contractor will be working on your project then you must appoint a principal designer and a principal contractor in writing. 

When appointing any designers or contractors onto your project, it is important to check they:

  • Have the necessary capabilities and resources
  • Have the right blend of skills, knowledge, training and experience
  • Understand their roles and responsibilities when carrying out the work.

As the client, you must provide all relevant information to the project such as any surveys or the results of other investigations. It is important to pass on all this pre-construction information to your appointed designers and/or contractors. You should also inform them of any risks that may have an impact on the design of the building or structure, as well as on its construction and future use.

If your project is expected to last longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers working on the project at any one time, or exceed 500 person days, you will need to make sure that your project is notified to the relevant enforcing authority.

Your office fit out project manager will be able to assist you with notifying the HSE Office and completing the online paperwork. 

4. Construction phase

4.1 Project Plan

Before any work starts on site you will need to satisfy yourself that a construction phase plan has been prepared. You can expect the plan to be project-specific, take into account the pre-construction information provided, and its contents should be proportionate to any site risks.

4.2 Suitable Welfare

You must ensure suitable welfare facilities are provided on site and are in place from the very start. Having arranged for your existing welfare facilities to be made available to those carrying out the work, you should be carrying out regular site visits, checking with the principal contractor what facilities are being provided.

4.3 Health and Safety

Having arranged for the health and safety file to be created and provided on site, you are also required to ensure that the arrangements made for managing health and safety during construction are working successfully. You will need to take reasonable steps to ensure that the principal contractor is complying with their duties.

4.4 Project Conclusion
As the project nears its end, you should check the arrangements made for its completion and handover. This could take the form of a phased handover or as a formal handover meeting.
During the construction work, the responsibility for the site is handed over to the principal contractor. Your staff, or any contractor you have named or nominated (for example a facilities management team) must comply with the principal contractor’s requirements.

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