CDM Regulations 2015: Better safety for all?

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The revised CDM proposals have been debated and analysed by many in the industry. Here, James Ritchie, Head of Corporate Affairs at The Association for Project Safety examines the revisions in addition to what they should mean for the smaller contractor.

Throughout the months of April and May the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have been running their consultation process on proposals to revise the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007. This is the third iteration of these regulations since they were introduced in 1995.

During that time, the fatal injuries rate in construction have dropped from 105 in 2000/01 to 39 in 2013/14 and more importantly the Fatal Injury Rate for construction workers has dropped from 6.0 per 100,000 to 1.9 per 100,000 over the same period. Since the introduction of CDM 2007, the UK has become a global leader in construction health and safety with UK construction companies working across the globe and taking CDM 2007 procedures with them. So you might be forgiven for wondering why the HSE are making wholesale changes to the regulations.

The HSE have set six policy objectives for the CDM 2015 proposals:

  • Maintain or improve worker protection;
  • Simplify the regulatory package;
  • Improve health and safety standards on small construction sites;
  • Implement the Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites Directive (TMCSD) in a proportionate way;
  • Discourage bureaucracy; and
  • MPeet better regulation principles.

These objectives are all admirable and I would have thought that everyone within construction would agree with them. Irrespective of the final format of the revised CDM Regulations, due to come into force in April 2015, certain issues are known:

  •  The Regulatory package will be much simpler in format than the current regulations;
  • The onus will be on dutyholders to comply with the regulations through implicit rather than explicit requirements;
  •  Reliance on guidance documentation will be much greater than currently;
  • SME Contractors will have to get their act together with regard to CDM as they will have much greater responsibilities, including taking on client duties if they are working on a domestic project;
  • There will no longer be an independent CDM Coordinator to provide clients, and others, with advice and assistance regarding construction health and safety;
  • In many cases the first designer appointed will have to take on the health and safety coordination role currently dealt with by the CDM Coordinator;
  •  Health and Safety coordinators must be appointed for any construction project that will have more than one contractor working on site;
  • Contractors will self-assess the contents and suitability of their Construction Phase Plans.

The HSE seem to have been caught between a rock and a hard place. They are looking to improve on the current CDM 2007 Regulations but have to meet Government requirements to reduce the regulations down to the absolute minimum. We also know that the UK Government has to change the regulations to meet the European Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites Directive (let’s just call it the TMCSD) otherwise they could face an embarrassing prosecution. If the issue was just meeting the TMCSD to ensure the UK did not face prosecution, then changes could be easily made without incurring the likely disruption and cost that the HSE’s proposals look to bring to the industry.

The CDM 2007 Regulations, when implemented correctly and proportionately, have been proved to bring considerable benefits to the construction industry and construction clients. The problem has been the abject failure by a proportion of the construction industry to understand and implement the regulations correctly, and this has not been helped by what some see as the failure of the HSE to encourage, cajole and enforce compliance – particularly with regard to the early appointment of the CDM Coordinator – at the smaller end of the market.

We currently have a two-tier industry in terms of health and safety and, whist the large contractors and project teams are taking construction health and safety seriously and reaping the consequential rewards in terms of reduced accidents, ill health and better profit margins, the smaller and domestic sectors of the industry still have not caught on to taking health and safety seriously. Many people still do not realise that CDM applies to all projects, thinking that it only applies to projects likely to last longer than 30 days.

The HSE have written the proposed new CDM Regulations specifically to address the problems with poor health and safety on smaller construction sites and even if the industry has no choice but to accept that the CDM Regulations are going to be re-written, the HSE should be applauded for attempting to tackle these problem areas. One can’t help but think that it is more a culture change that is required rather than a regulatory one – a culture change amongst designers generally and SME contractors in particular – and the domestic construction sector is going to get a real shake-up with health and safety coordinators required on all projects where there is more than one contractor working.

The HSE’s consultation process that ran from 31st March through to 6th June 2014 generated a lot of discussion in the industry and the main areas of concern seemed to be:

  • The perceived watering down of health and safety standards leading to a possible reduction in worker protection;
  • The over-simplification of the regulations raising concerns that some sectors of the industry will take advantage of the lack of clarity;
  • The likely increase in bureaucracy with the introduction of a requirement for coordinators and principal contractors on many more smaller projects;
  • Worries about the way responsibility for discharge of domestic client duties are being thrust upon contractors;
  • The placing of health and safety coordination duties upon designers who might not want to  do this;
  • The loss of an independent health and safety adviser for clients and design teams – something seemingly valued by clients and designers;
  • That the proposed revisions appear to be driven primarily by government ‘better regulation’ cost reduction policies rather than a need to make a significant improvement in construction health and safety.

Whatever the outcome the construction industry will have to make the CDM 2015 Regulations work, and work better than CDM 2007, particularly at the smaller end of the industry. This will require everyone in construction to be fully aware of what their responsibilities are, and be prepared to work as integrated teams to eliminate, reduce, inform and control risks on construction projects. ■

You can find out more about the proposed CDM2015 regulations at www.aps.org.uk/cdm2015.

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James Ritchie BA BArch RIBA RMaPS

Head of External Affairs and Deputy Chief Executive

The Association for Project Safety

Tel: 0845 2691847

james@aps.org.uk

www.aps.org.uk

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