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New safety rules broaden scope of design responsibility

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Definition of a designer will be dramatically widened when the revised Construction (Design and Management) Regulations come into force early next year.

Advice given by telephone will come within the scope of the rules as well as designs produced on paper or on a computer.

The new regulations were issued for a 12-week public consultation period on 31 March in one of the final stages before they come into force. They were drawn up by a working party under the auspices of the Health & Safety Executive including representatives from the construction industry and trade unions.

“The HSE felt that the existing regulations didn’t define the designer’s responsibilities clearly enough,” said British Constructional Steel Association Health and Safety Manager Peter Walker.

Designers are accountable for the health and safety implications of their design decisions on others. They are defined in the new regulations as those who have a trade or business which involves them in preparing designs for construction work, including variations, or anyone who specifies or alters a design.

This includes preparing drawings, design details, specifications and bills of quantities as well as analysis and calculations. The definition also applies to someone whose employees prepare designs.

The regulations would apply to steelwork contractors if, as often happens, they are consulted informally by structural engineers in the early stages of a project.

They would also apply to temproary works engineers, or to a purchaser who buys materials where the choice has been left open.

Designers’ duties extend to modifications to designs: hurriedly produced solutions to problems or other last minute changes need to be properly thought through.

Mr Walker said: “The new regulations will cover an awful lot of people who might not normally think of themselves as designers.” He added: “Regulations very rarely change significantly at this stage of the process.”

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