CDM Differently – shifting the focus


CDM Differently promotes a collaborative and integrated approach to risk, as explained here by Tony Putsman, Vice-chair CIC Health and Safety Panel

‘CDM Differently’ is a UK construction initiative jointly led by members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), under the auspices of the Construction Industry Council Health and Safety Committee.

Inspired by Andrew Townsend’s book, ‘Safety Can’t Be Measured’, the central theme of CDM Differently is that construction risk, including health and safety aspects, must be managed primarily by construction professionals, utilising a collaborative and integrated approach. This approach encourages project teams to focus on specific project challenges, rather than generic concepts of ‘risk’. Andrew demonstrated that there is a high degree of correlation between high levels of productivity and safety, the common denominator being the need to engage with the team and gain everyone’s commitment to achieving the project goals.

Although the management principles underpinning CDM2015 have remained unchanged since the regulations first came into effect in March 1995, understanding of what is required to comply with the law has been hampered by the fragmented nature of the construction industry and the poor quality of education and training often delivered by health and safety ‘specialists’ with limited understanding or experience of the construction process and the associated management principles.

As a result, the Health and Safety Executive now expects the professional institutions to take ownership of the process by which they develop and assess the health and safety skills, knowledge and experience necessary for their members to fulfil their professional and legal duties. CDM Differently challenges the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach adopted by many organisations when addressing health and safety issues and encourages a more ‘people-centred’ approach.

Since 2001 the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has operated a Health and Safety Register, which enables chartered and incorporated members of ICE, IStructE, and other engineering institutions to demonstrate, through formal assessment, their skills, knowledge and experience against a range of health and safety attributes. ICE is also a leading provider of CDM2015 training courses, open to the wider industry, which promote the CDM Differently philosophy.

RIBA has taken a slightly different approach in supporting its members taking up the Principal Designer role. Drawing on previous RIBA training courses and the experience of the ICE, it has created a workshop based approach which enables architects to develop their existing design co-ordination skills to visually represent significant risk issues. In this way various members of the project team can contribute to communicating and controlling the significant risk issues as the project progresses from the concept stage through to construction and beyond.

Although the two professional bodies have adopted different approaches, they share a common philosophy that CDM is about more than legal compliance. Orthodox health and safety education has focussed on changing behaviour to ensure compliance with legislative requirements. Unfortunately this approach has fostered a culture where having the right paperwork and making sure everyone adheres to mandatory PPE requirements has displaced a genuine concern for the people put at risk by construction operations.

The first time the HSE reviewed the CDM regulations in 2005, they coined the phrase ‘Teamwork not Paperwork’ to re-focus the industry on communication, coordination and cooperation. Advocates of CDM Differently believe that ‘every project is unique and every project team is unique’ so trying to apply generic solutions is fruitless. A different approach is needed.

Both ICE and RIBA training promote the concept of the ‘CDM Strategy Brief’. This is a structured but succinct format that requires the Client, Principal Designer and others to work together to consider how CDM can be successfully delivered – on this project.

Key features of the CDM Strategy Brief include:

•        An overview of the project;

•        The Clients Health & Safety expectations;

•        Key phases for the project delivery;

•        Strategic risks;

•        Significant pre-construction information requirements;

•        Procurement strategy;

•        H&S communication strategy.

With the inception of the Principal Designer role, CDM2015 has created a focal point for coordinating the efforts of the project team, from the earliest stages of a project. It is now up to the construction professions to grasp the opportunity to deliver the benefits that CDM has always suggested can be attained when project teams work in unison. ■

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Tony Putsman BSc (Hons), MICE, CEng, AIEMA
CIC Health and Safety Panel

Construction Team Technologies Limited
Xenophon Project Services Limited


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