Health and Safety in Construction.

As part of Injury Awareness Week (24 – 28 June 2024), here in the Personal Injury Team at Lanyon Bowdler we have been exploring different areas relating to accidents at work and how they can affect you. In today’s blog, I am covering health and safety law in the construction industry with a summary on what regulations apply to those controlling construction site work.


As with many other areas of work, anyone deemed to be controlling a construction site has responsibilities to keep their employees safe. This includes checking that working conditions are healthy and safe before work begins, and ensuring that the proposed work is not going to put others at risk. This requires planning and organisation. This applies equally to a firm running and managing a small job, or to a subcontractor working at a large site controlled by someone else.

Every year many construction site workers are killed or injured as a result of their work; others suffer ill health, such as musculoskeletal disorders, dermatitis or asbestosis. The hazards are not, however, restricted to those working on sites. Children and other members of the public are also killed or injured because construction activities have not been adequately controlled.

Claims for injuries sustained on a construction site are often based on negligence, relying on breach of a regulation as evidence of the negligence. The claimant will (usually) need to prove that the defendant failed to take all steps reasonably practicable to comply with the relevant regulations. The claimant will also need to prove that the harm was foreseeable and that the common law standard of care was breached.

In relation to the foreseeability of harm, an employer’s assessment of risks will inform the common law duty of care. The common law duty is often informed by government publications such as guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Such guidance may assist in relation to the foreseeability of harm, ie what the risk assessment should have identified and what steps (if any) the employer should have taken.

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

In terms of the legal framework relating to health and safety in construction, the most relevant legislation is the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. These regulations relate to accidents occurring after 6 April 2015 and replaced the previous 2007 regulations of the same name, setting out the legal duties for employers involved in construction work. They make explicit certain duties owed under other health and safety regulations as well as creating additional ones.

The 2015 regulations introduced significant changes to the existing law, most notably having increased the health and safety responsibilities on clients to:

  • ensuring duty holders comply with their duties;
  • providing the pre-construction with adequate information;
  • ensuring that the construction phase health and safety plan is drawn up by the principal contractor;
  • ensuring that a health and safety file is produced by the principal designer;
  • appointing a principal designer and a principal contractor;
  • notifying the HSE of the project particulars and confirming that they are aware of their duties; and
  • ensuring that the minimum health and safety standards are maintained on site.

For the purposes of the regulations, “construction work” is broadly defined as the carrying out of any building, civil engineering or engineering construction work. Similarly, a “construction site” is defined as any place where construction work is being carried out or to which the workers have access, but does not include a workplace within the site which is set aside for purposes other than construction work.

It should also be noted that these regulations do not cover the extraction of minerals which have their own specialist regulations.

A major feature of the regulations is that a client cannot escape liability by appointing a third party to oversee the construction work (although it can contractually be agreed between the parties who is to be regarded as the client for the purposes of the regulations). The 2007 regulations advised that a principal contractor must be appointed to advise the client on jobs that last for more than 30 days or involve 500 person days of construction work. In addition to advising the client about the health and safety issues on site, the principal contractor is also under a duty to plan, manage and coordinate health and safety while the works are in progress. The updated 2015 regulations substitute the role of CDM co-ordinator with that of a principal designer.

Here at Lanyon Bowdler we have extensive experience in assisting with personal injury claims involving accidents on building and construction sites. If you would like to explore whether you have a potential claim, please contact our free enquiry service on 01743 280280 or email to find out more.

It is also possible that other regulations may also likely to apply on many construction sites, such as the Work at Height Regulations 2005. For a more detailed analysis on accidents at work involving height and the Work at Height Regulations 2005, please see my colleague Morgan Thompson’s blog here.

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