Clients risk prosecution if an m&e contractor is killed while working on site.
Under the revised Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2007, which came into force in April, it is the client who commissions a new building that has the obligation to ensure that the contracted workforce adheres to the relevant Health and Safety (HS) Regulations.
Previously, it was the principal contractors, sub contractors, designers and managers who faced liability for any H&S breaches.
Ken Salmon, a construction lawyer with legal firm Mace & Jones, said: 'Under the CDM Regulations clients can't shuffle their H&S responsibilities sideways. They have a list of specific duties that they must comply with.
'For example, if a client undertakes a notifiable project they must appoint a CDM co-ordinator. They have to check that that person is competent and they have to provide the co-ordinator with any H&S information relating to the site or the existing buildings on the site, the conditions on the site and so forth.
'They also need to provide this information to the main contractors, sub-contractors, designers, and everyone involved on the project so that they can plan and manage their work safely.'
Mr Salmon said clients needed to ensure everyone involved in the delivery of the development was competent. 'They need to also make sure that those people have done what they're supposed to do; that they're all communicating with each other and they've put proper 'reasonable management arrangements' in place for H&S and safety of everyone,' Mr Salmon said.
'If they don't check the competence of the people they engage: that they have right experiences and resources available, or if they don't check that there are proper reasonable management arrangements in place then they will be liable for prosecution if there are any fatal breaches of H&S Regulations.
'The client won't be the first person in the firing line; he's going to be at the back of the firing line but he is in the firing line [nonetheless].'
The industry has expressed concern that with the sheer volume of construction activity facing the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), and the fact that it has to deal with a multitude of contractors, sub-contractors, designers and workers, it is at risk of breaching the revised CDM Regulations.
The ODA, however, refuted the suggestion. 'The ODA started considering the CDM regulations when they were still in draft form in the middle of last year and so we were already operating in the new regime and haven't had to make any changes to the way we manage our work,' an ODA spokesperson said.
'We published our HS&E Management Standards which we starting developing early last year with input from the main H&S bodies, the Institute of Civil Engineers, IOSH, and H&S people from the leading construction companies.
'We've been working with CLM, our delivery partner, to address the requirements of the new format. For example, appointing CDM co-ordinators, running design operations workshops for H&S, having a workforce that is required to hold valid skills certification and ensuring that adequate information is passed to contractors when they're bidding or planning to commence construction works.'
'H&S is going to be critical to the delivery of the project and we were keen to represent best practice in this area.'