By James Ritchie, Head of External Affairs and Deputy Chief Executive at the Association for Project Safety.
It is now six months since the HSE consulted the construction industry on their proposals for revising the CDM Regulations. As we all await their final set of regulations and wonder exactly what changes they may have made in light of the consultation responses, perhaps it is an opportune time for our industry to think about what is really needed by way of construction health and safety risk management advice under a new set of CDM Regulations.
For the past seven years good CDM Coordinators have provided construction Clients with advice and guidance regarding their projects and the health and safety implications that need to be considered. We need to recognise that, in an unregulated world, some people offering a CDM Coordinator service have been doing no more than their interpretation of the bare minimum required by the regulations. If that is all that is required of the project client then so be it but the real benefits and added value to clients come where CDMCs have been asked to provide more than the minimum. If construction projects are to really benefit from health and safety, then clients need to embrace it from the start, set realistic health and safety goals and be prepared to appoint a person or company with proven ability to work with the project design team – a CDMC that allows designers to get on with designing and coordinating the design effectively, provides appropriate advice to both clients and designers where required, plays an active part in project team meetings and does not dictate, if necessary, offers solutions through persuasive discussion and generally becomes a key player in an integrated project team.
CDM2015 provides an opportunity for the industry to reject the minimalist paper-pushing, form filling CDMCs who rely solely on their ‘statutory appointment’ status to get work. Surely CDMCs with as much experience and knowledge that many have, should be used for that skill, knowledge and ability to the benefit of the project team not just to fill in and submit the F10 Notification to the HSE and prepare pre-construction information obtained from other team members.
Appendix 4 of the current CDM Approved Code of Practice has been criticised for creating a fair degree of bureaucracy surrounding prequalification and competence assessments for different duty holder roles. Appendix 5, the lesser known ACoP competence criteria, however has not suffered the same damnation and has always provided a measure of good guidance when appointing a CDM Coordinator for larger, more complex or riskier projects. For all but the simplest of projects the Appendix 5 criteria may well be probably closer to where the industry now needs to look for in terms of construction health and safety risk management consultants i.e. someone who is professionally qualified to Chartered level in a relevant construction institution, has validated CPD in this field, and a typical additional qualification for example the NEBOSH Construction Certificate, member of the health and safety register administered by the ICE, membership of the Association for Project Safety, membership of the Institution of Construction Safety and of course, most important of all, evidence of significant work on similar projects with comparable hazards, complexity and procurement route.
Many of the construction industry’s leading commercial clients are now advocating the use of experienced, knowledgeable CDMCs as construction health and safety consultants having discovered the tangible benefits they bring to their projects for remarkably modest costs – and it is not only the clients that have been benefitting from this service but also the designers and contractors. So, if clients are wanting to employ advisers with demonstrable skills, knowledge and experience in design, construction and health and safety, and so many designers are apprehensive of taking on health and safety responsibilities being suggested in the HSE’s proposed Principal Designer role, then the answer is surely for project teams to equip themselves with a competent and capable CDM Consultant, with a capability proportionate to the complexity of the project involved.
The big clients see the project and financial benefits of employing a good CDM Consultant and professional clients such as Housing Associations, Councils and Developers should probably all be working to this model going forward.
I can accept that this is not necessarily going to happen with the smaller one-off clients and contractors, the very area of the industry where there are most concerns, but this has always been a difficult market to ‘convert’. Only a concentrated effort by the HSE based around un-announced inspections of smaller sites, together with a great deal of education of both designers and contractors, is going to see improvements at this end of the industry. I don’t wish to sound defeatist but how do you educate one-off clients if you have no way of knowing who they are or when they are going to start a construction project? We will have to rely on the people they appoint to ensure that suitable health and safety management arrangements are put in place.
In terms of designers, that means our design institutes have a lot of work to do to ensure that their members are completely familiar with new CDM and risk management generally, well, at least familiar enough to know when they do not know enough and need to bring in a CDM Consultant to advise and assist both them and the client. The HSE’s CDM2015 proposals may well help in this regard as architects, surveyors and engineers will find themselves on many projects automatically appointed as the Principal Designer with an associated legal responsibility for coordinating the design phase health and safety. Designers are usually good coordinators as this is part and parcel of a designer’s role. Designers need to look at the Principal Designer role as less about being an expert in health and safety and more about being a good coordinator of information. If they really want to deal with the ‘health and safety’ issues and have the capability, then great. If they don’t have the capability, then they will need to go looking for someone who does and can provide them with independent advice and assistance.