Elected Clients

Document type: Case Study
Author: Darren Selman Dip2OSH, CMIOSH, MCQI CQP, MIIRSM, AIEMA
Publication Date: 26/02/2016

  • Abstract

    The CDM Regulations make provision for a Client organisation to nominate another organisation (with their agreement) to carry out a complete package of works on their behalf. The nominated organisation is formally known as an Elected Client. During the project, Crossrail nominated a number of Elected Clients to carry out major pieces of work. This case study considers the logic behind Crossrail’s nomination of Elected Clients, the arrangements that were put in place, how the relationships were managed and performance monitored.  The key learnings were that the introduction of assurance activities to established contracts was challenging and this can be avoided by including assurance at the start up phase of the work. It was also noted that assurance activities are of benefit to both the nominating Client and the Elected Client.

    This document is relevant to any project required to comply with the CDM regulations and considering using Elected Clients.

  • Read the full document

    Industry Context

    The CDM Regulations were introduced in the UK in 1994 in response to an identified need to improve health and safety in the construction industry. The Regulations were updated in 2007 and Crossrail was set up and has (until April 2015 when a new revision of CDM was introduced) been delivered within the requirements of the 2007 Regulations.

    Projects that meet certain requirements as defined by the CDM Regulations must be notified to the Health and safety Executive. In projects where CDM is being applied, key roles must be established, namely Client, CDM co-ordinator (Principal Designer since April 2015), Designer and Principal Contractor. The Regulations allow for the nomination of an Elected Client (EC) who will take the lead in delivering the project. Many large projects are carried out using this arrangement for part of the work as it allows key activities to be run as projects within projects, where H&S risk is transferred to the EC. This is particularly useful when electing expert organisations (e.g. utilities companies) to deliver important elements of the work.

    CDM is not prescriptive about how the role of Elected Client (EC) should be considered by other Clients engaged on a project. Other than a requirement (Regulation 8 of CDM 2007) to confirm the agreement in writing and ensure that relevant information is provided to the EC there is little in the way of guidance as to any additional requirements.

    The majority of projects that utilise the EC framework are ‘single site’ major constructions where it is in the best interests of effective delivery to appoint an EC. In the case of Crossrail which is a multiple site project, it was essential to nominate ECs for parts of the project where they were best placed to deliver against requirements.

    Elected Clients on Crossrail

    For the majority of work carried out to deliver the new railway, Crossrail was the Client and carried out all duties strictly in compliance with CDM. However, it was identified that some project elements (of varying sizes) would be delivered more effectively by ‘electing’ another Client to carry out the work. In such cases, a written election can be made to determine which of the clients will take the lead in meeting the obligations under CDM 2007; this election is voluntary but must be confirmed in writing. Once an election has been made, the elected client must comply with all of the Client’s obligations under CDM 2007. Any other Client need only comply with duties to provide information and documents in their possession.

    Having decided to engage Elected Clients it was necessary for Crossrail to ensure that a consistent approach was taken to all organisations carrying out work as ECs on Crossrail’s behalf. Importantly, Crossrail needed an assurance that EC works were carried out with the same focus on safety and health that was applied on sites where Crossrail was Client.

    Elected Client assurance activities were carried out by the Crossrail Health and Safety Assurance Team. The members of this team were engaged for their competence in the field and were all qualified health and safety professionals with a background in construction and railways.

    Why was Elected Client Assurance Required?

    The Crossrail project was extremely complicated and included interfacing with a number of other organisations in the delivery of the works. These organisations included (amongst others):

    • London Underground
    • Network Rail
    • Canary Wharf Contractors
    • Berkeley Homes
    • Bombardier Transportation
    • Utilities Companies

    Following a detailed design study and after consultation with a number of external organisations (including those detailed above) it was agreed that some elements of the work would be most effectively delivered by nominating ECs.

    • For London Underground, and Network Rail this was because the work required was on their assets and within their work areas.They were therefore considered the most suitable to deliver the works.
    • For Utilities Companies, they owned the asset and had the specialist knowledge required to ensure the works were carried out effectively.
    • For the major construction works such as Canary Wharf Contractors and Berkeley Homes the stations were within the Elected Clients building complexes and it therefore made good sense for them to deliver these elements and minimise the interfaces.
    • For Bombardier it was agreed that because the depot would need to meet their requirements in terms of layout for train maintenance and marshalling activities, they would be best placed to deliver the depot.

    It was agreed between Crossrail and the organisations above (and several others) that they should take ownership of the complete works.

    Detailed specifications for the works (including what was to be delivered and to what timescale) were agreed and formal nominations were made in writing and accepted by the nominated organisations. All relevant information was handed to the newly ECs who then proceeded to deliver against the agreed requirements.

    Although the work had now effectively been handed over in its entirety to another organisation, it was still to be carried out as part of the Crossrail project and would be perceived as such by industry and the public.  It was therefore essential to ensure that the work was being executed to the same high standards of health and safety management as those in place on main Crossrail contracts.

    Crossrail had developed and implemented the Target Zero Strategy for health and safety for its staff, Principal Contractors and their sub contractors. It was a contractual requirement for Principal Contractors (and their sub contractors) to have health and safety arrangements in place on site that integrated with the Target Zero strategy, and this arrangement was seen to work well for the duration of the project.

    ECs have total ownership of their part of the project and it was not possible to impose on them a requirement to align with Target Zero. Irrespective of anything else, there is a degree of risk associated with imposing a safety regime on an EC when they have their own arrangements in place already, and which could not be actively monitored by Crossrail. ECs were however encouraged to align their own safety and health management arragements with Target Zero wherever possible; this at least enabled a degree of benchmarking. The challenge for Crossrail was to unobtrusively obtain assurance that the works were being carried out safely and in compliance with any legal and contractual requirements.

    How was Elected Client Assurance Carried Out?

    Before putting assurance arrangements in place it was first necessary to review all of the different EC works that were being undertaken in order to understand what approach was required. It soon became clear that a common approach would not be appropriate due to the varying nature of the work being carried out. It was however possible to identify that the work fell into three different groups:

    1. Major construction works where an EC was responsible for a ‘ground up’ new build that would ultimately form a new piece of Crossrail infrastructure. This group covered areas such as station and depot builds which were considered to be major construction projects. In these cases the ECs were already established Clients in their own right.
    2. Interface works where an existing rail infrastructure owner would be carrying out work on behalf of Crossrail to ensure that their own asset interfaced / integrated with existing infrastructure. This group consisted of London Underground and Network Rail. In both cases the ECs were already established as Clients in their own right for the work they were already undertaking on their own assets separately from the Crossrail works.
    3. Utilities works where a utility owner carried out work on their own assets. These activities were essential to Crossrail works and in some cases needed to be carried out to protect assets prior to commencement of Crossrail work. These ECs were extremely familiar with their own assets and best placed to manage and carry out the work to them.

    Having identified that there were three distinct types of EC, it became clear that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to assurance was unlikely to yield the best results. As the primary objective of the exercise was to obtain assurance that the ECs were working safely it was agreed that a different approach to checking would be taken for each of the three types of EC. Although it would not be able to compare activities like for like, it would be possible to assess just how compliant each EC was.

    Findings from assurance checks were brought together in a single report at the end of each six month period; this report provided an opportunity to review and analyse EC CDM compliance as well as their general health and safety arrangements. Findings were used to further share best practice across the project and, where necessary, identify ECs where more detailed intervention may be required. The reports formed an important part of the assurance process that provided Crossrail leadership with a project wide overview of H&S arrangements, irrespective of whether the work was being carried out directly for Crossrail or by an EC.

    Major Construction Interface Works Utilities Works
    Type of work New works within third party construction sites Upgrade works to third party assets Specialist works to third party assets
    Established Clients? Y Y N
    Duration Generally >6 months Generally >4 months Generally > 4 weeks
    Assurance Format Crossrail assurance model 22 point checklist CDM compliance audit tailored to nature of works and specific risks
    Meeting Frequency Bi-monthly Quarterly


    If >4 weeks then midpoint too.

    Figure 1 –  Comparison of Different Assurance Approaches Taken

    Assurance process – Major construction

    Major construction projects included the main Crossrail train maintenance depot and several stations. These were effectively set up as separate projects with a complete Client organisation established by the EC specifically to deliver the work in accordance with the CDM Regulations. This approach was taken by five EC projects.

    As each project was set up and the nominations were accepted by the ECs, discussions took place between the Crossrail and EC H&S teams to establish how assurance would be provided to Crossrail that work was being carried out with appropriate health and safety arrangements in place.

    Crossrail representatives worked with ECs from project commencement to help tailor specific requirements for each project and agreement was reached on how a fully collaborative approach would be taken. In all cases the EC would have full responsibility for delivering the work but, in accordance with the agreements that were reached at the early stages meetings, Crossrail would provide information (as mandated by the CDM regulations) and support as needed.

    Agreement was reached that Crossrail would carry out assurance assessments of the EC’s arrangements for both CDM compliance and H&S management arrangements. The standard Crossrail assurance model was used although this was tailored to the needs of each contract. In support of this, all ECs were required to report any H&S incidents in to Crossrail’s incident reporting system.

    Regular meetings were held between Crossrail and ECs to establish and maintain a good working relationship; these meetings would consider H&S performance generally as well as any issues or challenges that had arisen. During these meetings ECs shared incident data and information on safety issues identified, as well as action taken to address them. In addition to formal meetings a number of informal brief meetings were held; these could be called by either CRL or the EC; but as a rule took place at least once every two months. By maintaining an ongoing dialogue with each of the ECs, many of the problems traditionally associated with keeping an EC at ‘arms length’ (such as a lack of understanding of EC controls) were avoided.

    Agreement was reached with each of the major construction ECs that Crossrail would carry out at least one formal assurance activity per year. These activities took the form of an audit which was based on a checklist that considered H&S arrangements and how the CDM Regulations were being complied with. Once a date had been agreed the EC was sent a formal notification of the activity along with a copy of the Crossrail checklist. Audits were carried out by members of the Crossrail H&S Assurance team and normally took no more than a day.

    EC assurance audits fell outside the scope of the main Crossrail assurance audit schedule; additionally, ECs were not bound by the procedures that governed the standard Crossrail / Principal contractor arrangements. As such Corrective Action Requests (CARs) were not raised during EC audits. Instead, issues of concern were raised in reports to EC management with copies to the Crossrail leadership team for awareness. Crossrail auditors worked closely with EC H&S teams to ensure that any issues were addressed; best practice that had been identified during audits of Crossrail Principal Contractors was shared with ECs. Taking a standardised approach to EC assurance activities enabled Crossrail to gain assurance across the project that ECs were taking appropriate measures to ensure delivery against the requirements of the contract and relevant Regulations.

    Arrangements were put in place to ensure that, where an EC was unable to address an issue identified during a Crossrail assurance activity, escalation through Crossrail senior leadership would be an option. Ongoing strong relationships between Crossrail and ECs meant that there was no need to exercise this option.

    Assurance – interface works

    Interface works were carried out by key railway infrastructure industry partners, primarily London Underground (LU) and Network Rail (NR). The Crossrail railway interfaced with London Underground stations in central London, with direct links between stations at the same geographical location. Above ground, Crossrail would utilise existing stations and rail infrastructure, although this required upgrading to achieve full interoperability and a consistent corporate image. In addition, NR activities included the installation of new infrastructure including bridges and rail. Assurance activities focussed on NR and LU, although on occasion other organisations were involved (such as London Overground).

    Both LU and NR were well established organisations which already had comprehensive H&S and CDM management arrangements in place when they became ECs for work on the Crossrail project. Additionally, they would be responsible for work being carried out on their own assets, an activity they had always had ownership of. As such, although assurance was still required it needed to be carried out in a way that acknowledged this fact.

    At commencement of the works, meetings were held jointly between the departmental heads of health and safety for Crossrail, LU and NR. During these meetings a consistent approach was agreed that could be applied to current work and also in the case of any other infrastructure owners who may become ECs for Crossrail at a later date. As the projects progressed, meetings were carried out approximately quarterly, but not necessarily with both ECs.

    Assurance was to be carried out by the EC organisations using a checklist that covered 22 key areas of CDM and H&S management.The checklist was developed by Crossrail (against the requirements of CDM and the Works Information) and gave the assessor the opportunity to rate each subject area as ‘positive’, ‘improvement required’ or ‘corrective action required’. Crossrail already had a level of assurance that assessments would be accurate on the basis that they would be carried out as a part of each organisation’s existing assurance processes, rather than being a stand alone exercise. These assurance assessments were carried out on an ongoing basis with a summary of activities submitted to Crossrail every six months.

    In addition to the checklist activities, regular meetings took place between Crossrail, LU and NR to review any issues that had been identified in the periods between report submissions. This was particularly important with LU; Crossrail works were taking place so close to LU infrastructure during operational hours that there was always the potential for the two to conflict. By raising and addressing any issues at the first opportunity, the possibility of H&S problems was substantially reduced. As with the major construction EC activities, this collaborative approach enabled the development of a strong working relationship which in turn meant that issues were addressed from a ‘one team’ approach.

    Assurance – utilities works

    In the case of utilities works, the activities were notifiable under CDM, but only focussed on a single piece of work such as strengthening support to water mains. In these cases the asset owners were nominated as ECs on the basis that they were best placed (and most competent) to carry out the work. Using this arrangement also provided assurance to the asset owners who knew that the work would be undertaken to processes and by operatives that they trusted. More than twenty pieces of work were carried out under this arrangement.

    Compared to other EC works being carried out for Crossrail, the utilities works were relatively small; they were of short duration with a reasonably small footprint (in most cases), but the requirement still existed for Crossrail to be assured that the arrangements for both H&S and CDM were adequate and didn’t present a risk to the EC’s workforce or (by association) the strong positive image of Crossrail.

    Due to the short duration of the works (typically weeks / months as opposed to the years taken on larger EC works), it was not possible to implement a long term plan for assurance activities. Instead, meetings were held between Crossrail and the EC prior to commencement of works (RIBA Stage 5) to review proposed arrangements. As with other areas of EC assurance it was not possible for Crossrail to formally request that corrective action be taken when issues were identified. Instead, discussions took place between the organisations to find an agreed way of progressing. Not only did these checks provide assurance for Crossrail, but also gave the ECs an additional level of assurance their own processes. This approach worked well and helped to establish strong working relationships.

    Once work commenced the ECs were generally left to carry out the work without a great deal of intervention from Crossrail. For longer duration pieces of work (i.e. more than 6 weeks) agreement was reached with the ECs that Crossrail would carry out one assurance assessment at the approximate mid point of the works. This assessment took the form of an audit which was carried out by a member of the Crossrail H&S Assurance team. Audit scopes were based on the nature of the works and focussed on CDM compliance and the management of specific H&S risks that were identified on the sites. Findings were shared with the EC and Crossrail leadership; as with all other EC assurance activities, findings were addressed informally through collaborative working.

    Reporting of Findings

    Where an assurance activity led to the issue of a separate report, these were normally submitted to the EC within five days; this kept any issues fresh in everyone’s minds and also maintained any momentum that had gathered when an issue was initially identified. Reports followed the standard Crossrail audit report and were generally well received by ECs; in most cases they provided a starting point for a discussion on how improvements could be made.

    Findings from all EC assurance activities were collated into a six monthly report for the Crossrail Board; this detailed key findings across all EC works, and summarised the findings of any assurance audits / assessments that had been carried out. The Board report enabled Crossrail leadership to have a clear understanding of how EC activities were being carried out and, importantly, gave them an opportunity to view compliance of all ECs in comparison to each other. It was not expected that the reports would identify trends due to the diverse nature of work being carried out by ECs, although it became clear that there were some elements (such as preparation of documentation) that appeared to be deficient across a number of ECs. This enabled the Board (and Crossrail as a whole) to focus more closely on these areas as the assurance activities carried on.

    Due to the commercially confidential nature of some of the information in the full report, ECs were sent excerpts from the report that were relevant to them. Additional anonymised information was available on request; this provided ECs with an opportunity to benchmark themselves against other organisations. This helped not only with the general approach to H&S and CDM compliance, but also enabled the sharing of best practice for use on future projects outside Crossrail.


    The main challenge met by Crossrail was how to carry out assurance activities without bringing health and safety risk back to Crossrail. One of the fundamentals of an EC arrangement is that the EC, by virtue of the fact that they are responsible for all work, accepts responsibility for identifying and mitigating against risk; assurance activities needed to demonstrate that H&S risk was being adequately managed by the EC.

    Another challenge was how to engage the ECs in an assurance process; many felt that having accepted nomination as an EC they should then be left alone by Crossrail to carry out the work; intervention should only be made in the event that the project went over time or cost. These concerns were overcome by collaborating with the ECs from the outset, clarifying exactly what the process would be and ensuring that the ECs understood that Crossrail would be carrying out assurance activities as a monitoring and support exercise, rather than an opportunity to interfere with the EC’s work.

    Once the ECs were clear that Crossrail was looking to provide support to assist them in their efforts to improve H&S and achieve compliance with the requirements of the CDM Regulations, any elements of defensiveness appeared to dissipate. However, the challenge continued to be present with each new EC that commenced work, although Crossrail were able to demonstrate how the process had worked previously, which generally enabled collaborative relationships to develop more quickly with the newer ECs.

    Another (albeit less difficult) challenge was the issue of resourcing the assurance checks. The Crossrail H&S Assurance team delivered over 200 audits of Principal Contractor activities each year; it became evident quite early on that our ambitions outstripped our ability to deliver a comprehensive set of EC assurance checks. It was necessary to programme activities tightly and, importantly, not over promise. The principle objective of the assurance activities was to ensure that the ECs’  processes were working effectively. Ultimately the collaborative approach benefitted Crossrail in terms of having a clear understanding of how ECs were performing, but without close management this would have adversely affected other assurance activities.


    When the idea of EC assurance activities was first discussed concerns were expressed by both Crossrail and some ECs that this would be seen as intrusive and would ultimately prove to be counter productive; this ultimately proved not to be the case.

    Crossrail were able to gain a clear understanding of how all ECs were managing both H&S and CDM compliance on the projects that they were delivering. Due to the collaborative nature of the assurance activities Crossrail had an ongoing dialogue with all ECs which ensured that issues were identified and addressed quickly, rather than being allowed to escalate.

    The reporting process evolved and was found to be a useful tool at all levels of the organisations involved; on a local level the reports gave ‘pointers’ as to what ‘good’ looked like. A number of ECs have stated that they have taken learnings from Crossrail assurance activities and adopted them as standard process. The arrangements for making the assurance checks proportionate to both the work being carried out and the asset knowledge of the EC were highlighted as particular strengths.

    The combined six monthly report submitted to the Crossrail Board also provided a clear overview of how ECs were performing, and importantly provided assurance to both them and external stakeholders that EC works were being carried out in a way that minimised risk to their workforces, the project and the reputation of Crossrail.

    Future Projects

    It is important for future multi site projects to understand the value in EC arrangements and how essential it is that assurance provisions are agreed early on. Although ECs may be reluctant to accept nominations where they are likely to be subject to assurance checks by the nominating Client, they should be engaged in discussion at the first opportunity to agree assurance activities. One of the challenges identified by Crossrail was the introduction of assurance activities to established contracts; this can be avoided by including assurance at the start up phase of the work.

    It is also important to explain to potential ECs that assurance activities benefit not just the nominating Client but also the EC. As long as parameters are agreed before work commences, assurance activities provide assurance to the nominating Client and an additional level of checking for the EC in support of whatever strategies they have to work safely and improve safety performance.

    The use of Elected Clients allowed Crossrail to use the expertise of specialists and delivery organisations who were better placed to deliver the asset.  The periodic inspections and the collaborative approach taken by Crossrail were instrumental in the success of this approach resulting in benefits to both Crossrail and the Elected Client.

  • Authors

    Darren Selman Dip2OSH, CMIOSH, MCQI CQP, MIIRSM, AIEMA - Crossrail Ltd

    Darren Selman was Head of Health and Safety Assurance on Crossrail from 2012 until September 2016. He is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner who has held a number of Health and Safety roles in the rail industry over the past 20 years in organisations including Eurostar, London Underground and Bombardier. Darren built up a substantial railway knowledge during his career and has covered fleet maintenance, operations, stations and facilities, as well as railway and civil construction. He joined the Crossrail team in 2012 where he implemented a new regime of  contractor Health and Safety assurance activities, including audit and assessment. He was also responsible for the management of other assurance processes covering CDM management, fire safety and Business Continuity.

  • Acknowledgements

    Health and Safety Team, London Underground

    Health and Safety Team, Network Rail (Crossrail)

    Health and Safety Team, Canary Wharf Contractors

  • Peer Reviewers

    Simon Walker, Health and Safety Director , Mount Anvil

    Joe Elliot PhD CMIOSH, Health and Safety Manager, Virgin Money

    Catherine Beeckmans BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH, SHE Manager Costain