It’s been almost a year since the CDM regulations were revised. So, anything to celebrate? Over the next four pages we focus on all things health and safety – starting with three areas where the revised regs can make a difference
On 5 April we will have reached the first anniversary of the revised CDM Regulations 2007. It is, of course, far too early to assess the impact of these regulations.
Provisional figures for the first six months of 2007/8 show 34 construction-related deaths. This is not an improvement over the previous year although the trend over recent years has been one of gradual improvement. Still, as an industry, we have little to boast about as compared with other industries.
There are three areas in which the revised regulations can make a difference:
- Focus on management of risk rather than on dumping risk
- Corporate competence.
Let me start with procurement. Research carried out by Loughborough University for the Health and Safety Executive four years ago indicated that over half of all the accidents could have been avoided by appropriate management of the risk at design stage. The European directive that prompted the regulations in 1994 placed emphasis on the need for co-operation and co-ordination among all members of the delivery team, including consultants, project managers and specialist contractors.
Paragraph 44 of the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) makes clear that “co-operation and co-ordination can only be meaningful if the relevant members of the project team have been appointed early enough to allow them to contribute to risk reduction. This is particularly important during the design stage when both clients and contractors should contribute to discussions of buildability, usability and maintainability of the finished structure. Clients should seek to appoint those who can assist with design considerations at the earliest opportunity so that they can make a full contribution to risk reduction during the planning stages”.
On most projects this is not, as yet, happening. It does happen in the oil and gas industries, which is why they have a health and safety record which is second to none.
Health and safety risk was being treated like any other risk; it was simply passed on – usually by being hidden in a mass of paperwork
Now to the focus on management of risk. The revision of the regulations last year was partly prompted by the fact that risks weren’t being identified, let alone managed. Health and safety risk was being treated like any other risk; it was simply passed on – usually by being hidden in a mass of paperwork.
Prior to their appointment, designers and contractors should be provided with information identifying potential risks and hazards. Rather than passing on mountains of information to its contractors, the principal contractor should ensure that it only provides information that is specific to the trade or activities to be carried out by the contractor. In this context a key provision – new in the 2007 revision – is the requirement for a mobilisation period. The principal contractor and contractors should be informed of the minimum amount of time allowed for planning and preparation before beginning work on site. I would be interested in hearing whether this requirement is actually being implemented.
Finally, corporate competence. The regulations have always required contractors and designers to be competent but, until they were revised, there was no effective way of enforcing this. Now we have (at appendix 4 to the ACOP) a set of core criteria for competence. All firms should, by now, have taken steps to ensure that, individually, or through membership of a qualification or registration scheme, they comply with these criteria. HSE inspectors should be checking whether firms comply. An advantage of complying (apart from keeping within the law) is that, as a firm, you should not have to join myriad competence schemes. It would be helpful if all public sector clients insisted that their lead contractors and supply chains should all comply with the core criteria. Failure to comply would exclude them from public sector works contracts. Perhaps, a lead-in time will be required before this is implemented.
It is vital that we should be monitoring the impact of the regulations. I trust that someone at the HSE is doing this.
Rudi Klein is a barrister and chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group