Fitting behaviour

Fitting out a building involves many parties and a lot of legal grey areas. New construction regulations aim to clarify who should do what.

The relationship between designer and shopfitter has never been noted for its entente cordiale. And this year’s introduction of Construction (Design & Management) Regulations has done little to sweeten the accord.

While designers reckon they are doing all that is required to meet the new demands, shop fitting contractors fear that many designers are falling short in the fulfillment of their new duties. (The new regulations apply to all construction projects of over 30 days duration and to those where more than four people are engaged on-site at any one time – and so might not apply to very small retail refits.)

Indeed, such has been the level of anxiety among shopfitters that the matter was raised recently at the annual general meeting of the National Association of Shopfitters where, according to a press release, members “related their experiences of architects and designers either ignoring or simply not being aware of the need to apply the CDM Regulations to a variety of shopfitting projects”.

NAS director Gordon Elliott says: “It had always been our concern that shopfitting contractors would have to bear the greater responsibility for ensuring that CDM procedures were properly followed. We had not appreciated, however, the extent to which shopfitters would need to initiate consideration of CDM requirements in the first place,” he adds. As examples of the transgressions of both architects and designers, Elliott points out that “invitations to tender are often still being issued without a health and safety plan being available or a planning supervisor identified. Sometimes nothing at all has been done even though it is clear that CDM will apply to the project. In many instances NAS members, as responsible contractors, are themselves preparing CDM health and safety plans and check-lists, even though it is not their direct responsibility to do so”.

Countering the accusations, Chartered Society of Designers director Brian Lymbery points out that CSD members have been mailed extensive details of the CDM Regulations. They have also received information in the society’s newsletters, have access to Health and Safety Executive publications on the rules plus an introductory note on the CDM highlights, and have the opportunity to attend a CSD evening surgery on the regulations in mid-November. “Since we have forged links with the Construction Industry Council, we have been locked into discussions on these sorts of issues and are able to pass on quickly any news to our members,” says Lymbery.

He adds that he is confident that members have received all the relevant information on the new regulations, which he describes as a “codification of common sense and existing good professional practice.” He also points out the CDM Regulations “apply more often to architects than designers since they affect most directly the person with overall responsibility for the project. It depends on the size of the job of course. In retail refurbishment work, for example, the onus would probably be with the interior designer”.

Working on the premise that it is better to be safe than sorry, any designers working on interior projects are advised to double-check their responsibilities. A spokesman from the Health and Safety Council pointed out that “failure to comply with the new regulations incurs a fine of 5000 for each offence when dealt with by a magistrate, or potentially unlimited fines should the case come before a crown court”.

Among those design groups and architecture practices that have fully digested the new regulations is architect Llewelyn-Davies, whose recent retail projects include airport duty-free outlets. The practice has appointed its own in-house CDM specialist who is currently organising a series of seminars for colleagues.

The design group Din Associates has also imported expertise. Says Rasshied Din: “Because the changes have affected us straight away, we have been actively finding out as much as we can as quickly as we can.” He adds that he has at least four CDM reports on his desk for reference. “Initially, my reaction was to question whether we need yet more legislation, but on reflection I can see that it makes sense, and that in the end everyone benefits.”

Fitch has also brought in outside expertise: “Because of the great complexity of the responsibilities, we have invited in consultants and held seminars with staff to discuss CDM,” explains head of retail design Neil Whitehead. To help implement the regulations, designers at the consultancy have been issued with folders containing the new duties imposed, plus a check-list of responsibilities. “With more responsibilities for the designer, we have taken every step to be clear about what those duties are. The changes have also increased paperwork,” says Whitehead, adding that he is optimistic about the effects of CDM.

“While we acknowledge that there will always be tensions between shopfitting contractors and good project managers, we’re convinced the regulations should reduce friction by clarifying everyone’s role and lines of responsibility. In the end the client will benefit as well,” he concludes.

The Chartered Society of Designers is to host an evening forum on the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations on 16 November. A representative from the Health and Safety Executive will be present to answer questions. The forum will take place between 7pm and 8.30pm and is free to members. Telephone 0171-631 1510 for details.

The CDM regulations are published by HMSO, (ISBN 0 11 0438435 0) priced 3.20. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a number of explanatory publications on the CDM Regulations, including Designing for Health and Safety in Construction: A Guide for Designers (ISBN 0 7176 0807 7), priced 7.95. m

Below is a condensed version of the guidelines supplied by the Chartered Society of Designers to the CDM Regulations:

The new regulations are aimed at those involved in the construction or refurbishment of buildings from the feasibility stage through design and construction to use/maintenance, refurbishment and alteration, and even demolition. They intend that all the main parties to the building process should be drawn into the field of health and safety issues from the start, and they impose duties on clients, designers, contractors and operatives.

The regulations require…

a: the appointment by the client or his/her agent of a planning supervisor to ensure that proper consideration is given to health and safety issues and their co-ordination throughout the design team

b: the preparation of a health and safety plan at tender stage

c: the establishment of a health and safety file for use by the client and subsequent owner of a building

d: the health and safety executive to be informed of the plan at tender stage

e: the appointment by the client of a principal contractor to co-ordinate and monitor health and safety during construction (designers and the planning supervisor are not required to manage or supervise these aspects)

The designer’s duty…

The regulations make allowance for a number of exemptions, but whatever the project, Regulation 13 imposes a number of duties on designers:

a: to positively take account of health and safety hazards as a design consideration

b: to apply principles of prevention and protection to eliminate or reduce the element of risk arising from those hazards

c: to make health and safety information available to tendering contractors, as well as co-operating with the planning supervisor and others involved, and assisting with the preparation of the health and safety file

NB: the designer’s duty is limited to risks which he/she could reasonably be expected to foresee. He/she is not expected to take on any of the contractor’s responsibilities

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