The Building Services industry can be extremely traditional and slow to adapt to change. With a downturn upon us, companies will need to work hard to win new business and one way to do this is to embrace the changes in the CDM regulations.

They are still seen as a hassle, when they should be seen as an opportunity to differentiate your offering from other contractors and perhaps more importantly, to improve productivity and reduce risk.

Designing out risk should be treated as a normal part of a project’s development, not as an after-thought. Companies often fail to address Health and Safety issues and therefore put people at risk. The main areas of risk for Building Services contractors are working at height, slips, trips and falls, noise, dust and Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Clients drive awareness for these risks through the pre-qualification. These risks all have relevant legislation to adhere to, which ensure the dangers are minimised and help to make sure that the correct duty of care is taken. The Building Services industry has a great opportunity to address risk and increase productivity by ensuring CDM is followed.

The Building Services industry can be very conservative and a bit ‘behind the times’, particularly with investing and adopting new technology. In a recent survey (of board-level Directors within UK based M&E firms) conducted by Hilti, almost 62 per cent of Building Services contractors believe the sector is failing to invest sufficiently in the new technologies and methods needed to improve its productivity. However over 90 per cent of respondents said they planned to increase their focus on new technologies and methods in 2008 and beyond. As well as innovation and investment, good practice and complying with CDM certainly improves productivity as risks are minimised, which in turn results in less injury time for workers, reduced downtime of equipment etc.

The responsibility attributed to the CDM regulations is generally not taken seriously, particularly in comparison to other legislation; this is mainly due to a lack of leadership. Poor leadership and limited competency skills within environmental technologies obstruct productivity in the Building Services sector. For example, SummitSkills - the Sector Skills Council for Building Services Engineering - have recently published new research. Following extensive research with employers in the sector, factors that influence the sector’s productivity were identified; along with the identification that leadership and management skills are a major area of weakness in Building Services therefore specific top-down action is required.

Forward thinking companies who embrace change will be in a stronger position to weather the storm. The Building Services industry is focused on the cost of materials, rather than the cost of labour and installing those materials. The true cost of a project is reflected by planning, material costs and labour costs. The Government have the biggest role to play, by pushing higher standards so they can seriously reduce risk and improve productivity that will have long-term sustainable benefits to the entire industry.