14th July, 2021

The A-Z Of CDM Design Risk Assessment For Architects

As a designer on a construction project, what risks should you assess to comply with the CDM regulations? In this post, we will go through the A-Z of CDM design risk assessment, giving you 26 areas to think about when considering health and safety in your design.

The A-Z Of CDM Design Risk Assessment For Architects header image

The CDM regulations place duties on every member of the construction project team. That includes clients, contractors, and designers. If you are an architect, structural engineer or any other person or professional involved in design elements for a construction project, you have designer duties under the CDM regulations.

A designer (under CDM) is an organisation or individual that prepares or modifies a design for any part of a construction project, including the design of temporary works, or who arranges or instructs someone else to do it.

What risks should you be thinking about when you are preparing your design? In this post, we will go through the A-Z of CDM design risk assessment, covering 26 areas to think about when considering health and safety in your design.

Your design risk assessment should focus on risks that are:

  1. Specific to your design and site
  2. Complex, or
  3. Unusual

If you are involved in design work at any stage of a construction project, the CDM regulations apply. You could be involved in the entire design or just a single element. You will need to comply with CDM designer duties, whatever your involvement.

And one of the key designer duties is to avoid risks when preparing the design. These could be risks to those carrying out the construction work (buildability) or risks to those using or maintaining the finished structure.

Not sure what you need to do to comply with CDM as a designer? Read our free CDM duty holder guide for designers to get up to speed!

As an architect or designer involved in preparing construction drawings, it's important to think about how your design will come to life. What risks might there be when your plans are taken off the page and built on site.

Your design is like a set of instructions for what to build, so you also need to think about how it will be built. Can it be built safely? How will it be built safely? Are there any sequences or restrictions the builder needs to know about? Are there any changes you can make to lower the risks and improve safety on the site?

You should also consider any unusual risks that might remain after the project is finished, and your design is in use. How will the client maintain and clean elements of your design that are out of reach for example? Could the design be adapted to provide a safer way of doing things?

Use the CDM design risk register template for a checklist of more than 210 design elements and health and safety considerations to include in your design review.

To help designers ensure that key health and safety concerns have been covered within the design review, the design risk register contains the A-Z of design risk assessment. This gives you 26 sections of key design topics to cover when developing your design.

You can use these 26 subjects to help guide you through the areas you should consider for the construction and future use of your design and to think about areas where risk can be reduced.

Here are our A-Z CDM design topics for your design risk assessment:

cdm designer

Existing Site H&S Design Review

Every site is different. Different hazards. Different location. Different risks. It's important to think about the current site, and how it may affect the planned project. Are there any risks that need to be overcome, or is more information needed from the client about hazards that may be present?

  1. Existing Environment
  2. Clients Undertakings (Existing Building / Site Usage)
  3. Existing Site / Building Information
  4. Further Information Required
construction site set up

Construction H&S Design Considerations

Under CDM, you must consider how your design can be built safely. Have you allowed for temporary works, storage and access routes? Have you identified any unusual risks with your design that the contractor should know about?

  1. Site Access Proposals
  2. Site Setup Proposals
  3. Proposals for Site Plant and Storage Positions
  4. Outline Demolition Sequence
  5. Outline Structural Sequencing
  6. Environment Considerations
office building use

Building Use H&S Design Considerations

When your design is built, and the contractors have gone, the client takes over. Now your design will be used (and hopefully enjoyed!). But it's important that the building can be used safely for its intended purpose. When creating your design, consider the planned use of the building or structure, and how to create the best environment for the needs of future users.

  1. Ventilation
  2. Indoor Temperatures
  3. Lighting
  4. Cleaning and Waste
  5. Room sizes and Work Stations
  6. Floors and Traffic Routes
  7. Falls or Falling Objects
  8. Windows, Glazing, Door and Gates
  9. Sanitary, Washing and other Welfare Facilities
  10. Safety Signage and Emergency Arrangements
design safety planning

Building Maintenance H&S Design Considerations

The work doesn't stop when the projects complete. The client will need to be able to maintain the structure and its equipment. How will they access the areas they need to?

  1. External Maintenance Access
  2. Internal Maintenance Access
  3. Below Ground Level
  4. External Areas
  5. Roofing Areas
  6. Future Demolition & Modifications

Remember, your design risk review does not need to cover every construction hazard. Focus on those that are specific, unusual or complex hazards associated with the project and its design.

Don't forget, if the project is expected to have more than one contractor (including subcontractors), a principal designer must be appointed by the client. This principal designer is responsible for health and safety at the pre-construction stage of the project.

Taking on the role of the principal designer? You have extra duties under CDM! Read our free CDM duty holder guide for principal designers to get the facts.

Many construction projects have more than one designer, and all designers must work together to comply with CDM. Where several different construction designs come together, they should be reviewed to make sure that any combined risks are addressed.

All designers involved with the project at any stage must cooperate and share information to make sure that risks are controlled. The principal designer is responsible for reviewing the health and safety information collected from each designer, and managing health and safety during the pre-construction phase.


Need help producing a professional design risk assessment for your project? Download the CDM design risk register template and cover over 210 construction design health and safety topics.

This blog post was originally written in 2012 and has since been updated for the latest 2015 CDM Regulations, including the new principal designer role.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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