health and safety file

CDM Regulations: Health & Safety File

28th January 2022   |   Jamie Barrett   |   Reading Time: 4 minutes

The requirements relating to the health and safety file at practical completion

In previous articles related to the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM2015) and the role of Principal Designer, we have talked about the duty of the Principal Designer to compile a comprehensive health & safety file. 

When your project reaches the point of practical completion certain processes are triggered. This article explains what happens to the health and safety file when practical completion is achieved. 

What is practical completion?

The RIBA defines practical completion as “’Practical Completion is a contractual term used in the Building Contract to signify the date on which a project is handed over to the client. The date triggers a number of contractual mechanisms.”

Certified by the Contract Administrator, practical completion is the trigger for certain processes including: 

  • Release of 50% of the retention sum.
  • End of the contractor’s liability for liquidated damages.
  • Start of the defects rectification period.

It is also the point at which particular documentation must be issued including: 

  • O&M manual – supporting the training that has been provided on the safe operation of the building.
  • Construction stage report.
  • Building Control certificate.
  • Health and Safety file.

As practical completion allows the client to take possession of the building ready for occupation, it is also the point at which the client must insure the building. 

Relevant legislation

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM2015) current revision came into effect in April 2015. The aim of this, and the preceding legislation, is to raise health and safety (H&S) standards and ensure that H&S issues are addressed in order to “reduce the risk to those who build, use and maintain structures”. 

As you can see from the definition, the purpose of the legislation goes far beyond the construction of the building, and considers whether the building can be safely maintained, and even decommissioned in the future.

Principal designer and the health & safety file

The appointed principal designer is responsible for preparing the health and safety file on behalf of the client. The health and safety file means that any future work on the building can be planned safely taking account of full information about the building 

Below is an example of information that does not need to be included in the health and safety file:

  • Information about the construction process (unless it may be relevant in the future).
  • Contractual information.
  • Pre-construction information.
  • Normal operation of the building as this is included in the O&M manuals.

The principal designer starts preparing the health and safety file at the pre-construction stage. As the project progresses the file is reviewed, updated and amended to take account of changes – for example, changes to the design of the building. 

In line with H&S risk management obligations, any risks that cannot be eliminated through design must be documented in the health and safety file. The principal contractor is obliged to provide relevant information to the principal designer for inclusion in the health and safety file. 

If the principal designer’s appointment ends before completion, the health and safety file must be passed to the principal contractor who is then responsible for passing the final version to the client when the building is handed over. 

Regulations and guidance advises that the following should be included in the health and safety file:

  • Information about the project.
  • Hazards not eliminated.
  • How remaining hazards have been addressed (i.e. specialist surveys or reports).
  • Key structural information (i.e. safe load levels for roof and floors).
  • Hazardous materials used in the construction.
  • Information relevant to the removal or dismantling of installed plant or equipment.
  • H&S information about cleaning and maintenance.
  • Details of significant services – gas, electricity, underground cables or services, fire services etc. 
  • Information and ‘as built’ drawings of the building, plant and equipment.

Click here for more information from HSE about principal designers 

What does the client do with the health and safety file?

As the client, when you take possession of the building, and the health and safety file, you then become responsible for keeping it safe and updated. It should be available for inspection should the need arise and you will be required to revise the contents if changes are made to the building in the future. 

The health and safety file is an important document that must be maintained for the life of the building, being made available to any leaseholders and being passed to subsequent owners if the building is sold.

The format of the health and safety file is not prescribed but it’s important to ensure that backup copies are made.

If the building is an HMO the owner keeps, and is responsible for maintaining, the master copy whilst property occupants are given relevant information regarding their home within the building. This applies, for example, in blocks of flats. 

What are your duties as a construction project client?

As the client it’s important to understand your legal duties and obligations in order to ensure you fulfil them. You can read more about those duties and obligations here.

You must ensure that you appoint an appropriate person to act on your behalf. A reliable and reassuring way to do this is by appointing an Association for Project Safety (APS), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) regulated firm This means you will have the assurance that you are engaging a reputable company that you can trust and rely on.

How Evolution5 can help you?

Evolution5 has a technically qualified and skilled team that includes highly experienced principal designers and CDM advisors, plus project managers for the management and coordination of designs.

With extensive construction experience, Evolution5 is perfectly positioned to work collaboratively with your design team from the early stages of your project to ensure the build phase runs smoothly and regulatory compliance.

Evolution5 is a professional consultancy offering principal designer, CDM advisor, project management, quantity surveying, employer’s agent, and contract administration services for projects across London and the South East.

If you have a construction project and would like to explore how the team can help you, click the button below or call 023 8040 5073.