James Ritchie, Head of Corporate Affairs at The Association for Project Safety (APS) examines the new proposals for CDM regulations and outlines what challenges they present for health and safety in construction.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have finally published their long-awaited Consultation Document for their proposed changes to the CDM Regulations. At the time of writing, the proposals have only been public for an hour or so, but there are some fundamental issues that the construction industry will have to get to grips with if these proposals are to be a success.
The policy objectives behind the proposed Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) are:
– To 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 meet better regulation principles.
Fine aspirations but will they actually be achieved? We have been here before – when CDM2007 was created.
The most important first step must be to look carefully at the wording – not simply to judge the overall principles and ideas being put forward, but to examine the ways in which they might, or more to the point, might not work in practice. What do the words really mean? How will the regulations really work? Will they deliver better construction health and safety than the past two sets of CDM Regulations, or are we going round the houses to deal with what are essentially ‘political’ concerns? Will these new regulations seriously tackle the reduction of construction related ill-health, and will they deliver the step change that the APS has been calling so long for?
We will also have to see how the new Principal Designer will be required to discharge their new duties. Will they be able to call on another construction professional for assistance or to undertake their health and safety coordination duties if they do not themselves have sufficient skill knowledge and ability?
An initial reading of the proposed CDM 201x Regulations would suggest that ‘Principal Designer’ is just another name for the CDM Co-ordinator, but appointed at an earlier stage than Clients currently tend to do. If so, and it works, then this might be a good move. Early appointment of a health and safety co-ordinator (think CDM Consultant) has always been a problem area for the industry as well as the HSE. Clients do not see the benefit of appointing a CDM Consultant early as they think it is going to cost them money and “we don’t really need one do we?”.
As always, the devil is in the detail. For example, the HSE’s Regulatory Impact Assessment states that there will be savings to businesses (undertaking projects of over £200k value) of £30m per year, from the efficiencies generated by the removal of the CDM Co-ordinator role. But does this account for the cost of increased fees by Designers taking on and undertaking the Principal Designer role? If not, then has the HSE made an error because additional duties and responsibilities lead to costs as increased work and liability have to be dealt with somehow.
Putting the cost implications of additional duties aside, will designers have the commitment to focus on health and safety aspects of the design process when they have so many other pressures and issues to consider? Will an architect give the ‘boring’ health and safety co-ordination issues the same attention as the aesthetic, sustainability, cost and quality aspects of a design?
The HSE also believe that the simplification of the structure and language of the Regulations will lead them to be more easily accessible to smaller businesses. This is good news as most problems occur on smaller to medium sized projects. Personal knowledge of talking to architects on a regular basis as the RIBA Specialist Practice Adviser on CDM issues, leads me to think that many will not even look at a copy of the new regulations, or the guidance produced, as some still do not know what a CDM Co-ordinator does or what their own duties as a Designer are – and CDM has been around for 19 years now.
The HSE goes on to state that removal of the explicit requirements for competence from the Regulations could potentially lead to substantial savings over time, especially to small businesses. This is more worrying as competence and capability continues to be one of the major concerns of the industry and the cause of so many accidents and ill-health in construction. The HSE will have to demonstrate exactly how they see the competence of duty holders being maintained, if not increased, by the removal of explicit requirements. Stating that ‘the industry will deal with it’ is just not good enough. Whilst Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) and PAS91 pre-qualification processes are undoubtedly the way to go with corporate competence, they do not cover standards and requirements for individual competence. Individual competence will only be increased or maintained for construction professionals and others if their governing membership bodies determine that health and safety competence is something worth pursuing and demanding of their members.
One change to the CDM Regulations that has to be implemented is to do with the application of the regulations on projects where there is going to be more than one contractor on site. The under-pinning European Directive states that all projects, where there is more than one contractor on site, must have someone to co-ordinate the health and safety of the project. This means that the requirement to appoint a health and safety co-ordinator will have to start applying to domestic projects. The HSE seem to have done a rather cute ‘side-step’ here. They have said that if a client is a domestic client, then the client duties will be carried out by the contractor or principal contractor, depending on the number of contractors on site.
Putting aside any issues about retention of the CDM Co-ordinator role and the name change to Principal Designer, if people in the industry who work with CDM day-in day-out believe CDM2007 isn’t broken and only needs tweaking to avoid under-implementation of the European Directive, why do government and the HSE think the only solution is wholesale change to a system that over the past 7 years has put Britain at the top of the league in construction health and safety performance? With little or no time for the
HSE to consider the Consultation responses and make any changes to their proposals if they are to be brought into force in April 2015, a cynic might suggest that it doesn’t really matter what the consultation responses say as they are going to “publish and be damned”.
The questions are many – the time to consider, and respond adequately, very short. But consider and respond we must, for, as has been said many times before, the industry has to get CDM right this time around.
James Ritchie BA BArch RIBA RMaPS
Head of Corporate Affairs
The Association for Project Safety
Tel: 0845 2691847