Architect Prosecuted for Failing in CDM Designer Duties

An architectural practice and a construction company involved in a Somerset development were fined a total of £195,000 following a fatality on the site.

The architects, Oxford Architects Partnership, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 13 and 14, of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM), which require designers to take safety considerations into account. They were fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000.

The court heard that on 26 January 2005 David Cairns (64) was working at the newly built ‘Exchange’ building in Bridgwater, Somerset. Mr Cairns was working on the air conditioning plant, which was built on a platform accessed via a ladder at the edge of a flat roof. The roof only had a low parapet, which was not high enough to prevent Mr Cairns falling nine metres to the ground – something which could have been avoided with input from an experienced CDM Coordinator and good design practices.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Sue Adsett, said:

“This is a tragic case where both the failings of the construction firm and the architects led to Mr Cairns’ death. While it is rare for designers to be charged with breaching health and safety legislation, they must be aware they can be held responsible where bad design is an important contributory factor to a work-place fatality.

Designers must ensure that plant and equipment can be accessed safely, and that safety harnesses are only used as a last resort.

HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any company or individual who fails to carry out their health and safety duties, especially when that failure results in a tragedy, as in this case.”

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