Question Sarah Construction & Engineering

Failing to prevent contractors working on an unsafe roof

Recently the Health and Safety Executive successful prosecuted the Islington’s Business Design Centre and a roofing contractor for failing to protect workers carrying out roofing works at the Business Centre, when a sub-contractor fell 5.5m through a skylight, injuring his pelvis, wrist and elbow. Islington court imposed a fine of £300,000 on the Business Design Centre for breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, for failing to prevent contractors working on an unsafe roof. And James Murphy was fined £4000 for breaching Regulation 4(1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (Construction Index 2016). How could the Business Design Centre as the project client and James Murphy as the principal contractor have avoided this accident and subsequent prosecution?

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Answer Expert #10136

In this case the client and the main contractor could have avoided the accident and the subsequent prosecution by adhering to the requirements of the Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) 2015, which are in place to improve health and safety in the construction industry. Under CDM 2015 there are five key duty holders, namely the client, the principal designer and the designer, along with the principal contractor and the contractor. Each part has specific responsibilities and the purpose of the regulations is to provide continuity of safety management from the concept design of a project through to operation and maintenance of the completed asset. Under these regulations the client, defined as an organisations or individual for whom a construction project is carried out as part of a business is required to make appropriate arrangements for managing a project, including appointing other duty holders and allowing sufficient time and resources for the safe completion of the work. The client is also responsible for making sure that all parties have the relevant information to carry out their duties in a safe manner and that welfare facilities are provided. The regulations also set out the duties of the principal contractor which include planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating health and safety during the construction phase of a project (Health and Safety Executive 2015). This necessitates liaising and coordinating work with the other duty holders, making sure that all personnel receive site induction safety training and that workers are suitably trained and competent to carry out their work. This should include carrying out risk assessments of the work being carried out and ensuring that all safety measures are in place, particularly for high risk elements of work such as working at height (Bussey 2015; Summerhaye 2016).


Bussey, P., 2015. CDM 2015: A Practical Guide for Architects and Designers. London: Royal Institute of British Architects.
Construction Index, 2016. “Business Design Centre fined £300k for contractor’s roof fall” [accessed 12th October 2016].
Health and Safety Executive, 2015. Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015. London: HSE Publications.
Summerhave, S.D., 2016. CDM Regulations 2015 Procedures Manual. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.