Despite the CDM regulations, site accidents are on the increase. Beyond CDM, there are several practical steps that can be taken at tender stage to instil a culture of safety on site.
last year's rise in site deaths has put construction on the spot. Everyone from site managers to the deputy prime minister is looking at safety with a new urgency.

This concern is set against the backdrop that not only are construction workers five times more likely to be killed than the average for all industries, they are also more than twice as likely to sustain a major injury. What makes it more worrying is that despite the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, which were meant to help solve these problems, the number of accidents is on the rise.

The CDM Regulations were introduced back in 1994 to co-ordinate the management of health and safety through the design and construction processes, and to bring clients' influence to bear on improving safety.

Commitments to improving health and safety also flowed from the Latham and Egan reports. Although some clients, such as BAA, have pushed forward with health and safety initiatives and are now making real progress in achieving improvements, others have not done so well.

So what is the problem? Are the CDM Regulations the wrong way of addressing safety? CDM is arguably most focused on the design process, and design is seldom the killer. Most accidents happen on site during construction.

It would take a brave soul to recommend scrapping CDM. It achieves what it can and if this is only a heightening of awareness of health and safety then that is a valuable contribution. What we need is more emphasis on the practical side of health and safety. Those who prepare contract and tender documentation can contribute by considering such things as:

  • The culture of lowest price could be at the heart of many health and safety issues in construction. Constantly trying to increase the profit margin by introducing cost reductions and efficiencies must surely lead to cutting corners and more risk. Consider whether moving away from lowest price to some form of partnering relationship will bring improvements.

  • A safe and efficiently run site should produce higher quality and lower cost construction, but an investment is needed to get safety and welfare on the proper footing. A solution is not difficult. When putting tender documentation together, include specific preliminary items for induction training, site welfare facilities, toolbox talks, first aid facilities and, on the larger projects, occupational health and nursing facilities.

  • Consider moving away from lowest price tendering
  • Include safety incentives in the tender documents
  • Ensure best practice and accident reporting are also included

  • Make sure that the contractor prices each element separately, and assess whether the price is sufficient to run a safe and healthy site. If it is not, go elsewhere.

  • Monitor performance. If the contractor does not provide the facilities that it has priced for, then press the issue as you would any part of the contract requirements.

  • Ensure that the contract requires meeting best practice standards and not just the minimum statutory provisions. Extend this as far as detailing cleaning standards. If you do not know how to specify this, ask a facilities management consultant or contractor. As a bonus, cleaner facilities and a tidier site may improve labour retention.

  • Make proper reporting of accidents and incidents a requirement of the contract. Monitor the reports and actively identify problem areas so you can take corrective action.

  • Consider an incentive system. It could be at employee level (sometimes unkindly known as the "colour TV if no one gets killed" scheme), or at client/contractor level, or both. At main contract level, it could take the form of an incentive payment or scale of payments for achieving set targets.