James Ritchie, Head of Corporate Affairs at APS details the challenges the CDM sector is currently facing in terms of capability…
Those who bleat that CDM Co-ordinators are a waste of space, cost us dear and contribute nothing to our industry. Some within the industry are wasting their own, and everyone else’s time on paper exercises that have contributed little to improving health and safety in construction.
But those ‘bleaters’ cannot explain the considerable improvements to our death and injury performance that have been demonstrated over the years since CDM regulations were introduced. Nor can they explain the very considerable gains made as a result of application of construction health and safety risk management during the Olympics construction programme – just one example of projects where CDM has aided better management, better delivery, and lower accidents and injury statistics. The CDM Regulations have, without doubt, proved themselves and proved the value of effective CDM coordination, design and construction risk management.
The major CDM issue is eliminating the “less than competent” practitioners, not removing the work that needs to be done to co ordinate and reduce risks. It is exactly the same problem for architects, engineers, project managers and contractors, whereby the vast majority do an excellent job whilst a few let the side down.
The other issue is reducing the bureaucracy that has surrounded aspects of CDM construction risk management – a bureaucracy fed by the legitimate fears that without demonstrable evidence, if things go wrong those charged with offences would be unable to defend themselves.
Anyone who understands the nature and complexity of the construction industry will understand that the specialist knowledge, skills and experience required to effectively provide design and planning, and/or construction phase health and safety risk management and advice, are not always the favoured lot of all designers, contractors or even health and safety professionals. Even design risk management during the design stage, and aspects of construction risk management during construction will often require a wider range of knowledge and experience than is part of the normal knowledge and skills sets for many designers and constructors. It may well be time to make sure that designers’ ‘best friends’ are available to help them deal with design risk management more effectively than has been the case to date. The need to manage these construction risks requires specialists in these areas; people who are committed in their role so that design teams and contracting organisations can obtain those specialist skills either directly from employees or from consultants.
This is an industry where one size has never fitted all; whichever route is taken, the industry needs to ensure that capable people are available to deliver the required services, meaning those appointing them or working with them, should be confident they are capable of discharging their duties.
This of course must be as a result of a recognized industry with HSE support. It is important that we have a listing of persons or registers of suitably qualified and experienced individuals held by other organisations (like those already established by the Association for Project Safety (APS)), together with perhaps a job specific interview and evidence of relevant project experience.
The challenge then is to help the industry achieve this. Designers and contractors will need to be able to find, and rely upon competent people to discharge the coordination functions if they do not have sufficient skill, knowledge, and experience themselves to do the job right and avoid potential Fee For Intervention costs if it goes wrong.
James Ritchie BA BArch RIBA RMaPS
Head of Corporate Affairs
The Association for Project Safety
Tel: 0845 2691847