Designers face new liabilities

New health and safety regulations introduced to the construction industry last week will increase interior designers’ liability, claim the Design Business Association and solicitor Lewis Silkin.

“The regulations impose criminal sanctions on designers … and designers will be caught when clients incorporate regulations into their contract,” says Jonathan Collins, partner at Lewis Silkin. This will allow clients to sue for negligence, he adds.

The Construction (Design Management) Regulations 1994 came into force on 31 March and were issued by the Health and Safety Executive to implement European Community directives.

The rules state: “In all projects the designer will be under a duty to ensure that designs properly reflect and contain adequate information about any aspect which may have health and safety considerations or implications.”

A DBA spokeswoman says: “The DBA is concerned that the professional indemnity insurance of designers and clients will be adversely affected.”

The rules make compulsory the creation of two new roles – planning supervisor and principal contractor. If designers take on the role of planning supervisor they must have separate insurance cover, says Collins.

The DBA and Lewis Silkin are to issue a guide to help consultancies. “The new regulations are likely to have expensive consequences for smaller owners and developers but will particularly affect consultants taking on the role of planning supervisor,” the DBA spokeswoman adds.

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