Industry experts have criticised the HSE’s proposed revisions to the CDM Regulations, claiming they do not properly clarify the responsibility of clients

The regulations, released as a consultation document last week, introduce a raft of measures to force greater client responsibility for safety. These include the appointment of a project co-ordinator to advise the client at all stages of a project, replacing the planning supervisor role, and a responsibility to provide a detailed construction plan (see “Proposed changes”, below).

However, the Association for Project Safety has warned that the proposals contain a number of “grey areas” where responsibility is not fully defined, a concern shared by architectural safety panel Designers Initiative On Health And Safety (DIOHAS). There is also concern over how best to assess the competency of project co-ordinators.

Brian Law, chief executive of the APS, said a particular concern was how to ensure that clients follow the advice they are given, a task that he said could be made harder by the loss of planning supervisors. He said: “At the moment the planning supervisor has a duty to check that the client is paying adequate regard to safety advice. That duty is not as strong under the new system.”

Law also said the duty to appoint a co-ordinator before work began might not be enough to prevent clients acting without proper advice.

He said: “We are very happy with the early appointment of a co-ordinator, as someone should have the responsibility to make the client understand what needs to be done. However, the proposals leave open the possibility that a letter of advice from a contractor or designer could be seen as making the client aware of an issue, even though it may not offer a great degree of detail. The issues are too important for the process to function like that.”

These proposals should improve the management of risk

Bill Callaghan, HSE chairman

Law said he was concerned that the regulations did not deal adequately with smaller projects, as the requirement to appoint a project co-ordinator only comes into force on projects lasting longer than 30 days.

Bob Keenan, architect at Sheppard Robson and chairman of DIOHAS, said the draft regulations did not always make it clear who was liable for unsafe design.

Keenan said the document did not clarify whether the architect would be responsible for designs subcontracted out to specialist suppliers such as cladding manufacturers. He said: “This needs to be clarified and I don’t think it is in the draft regulations.”

Bill Callaghan, HSE chairman, defended the proposals, saying they allocated responsibilities in a practical and straightforward way. He said: “These proposals reflect our commitment that revision of the CDM regulations should improve the management of risk and ensure responsibility is placed with those in the best position to influence or manage it.”

Proposed CDM changes at a glance

  • Planning supervisors replaced by project co-ordinators

  • Client must appoint project co-ordinators on all projects lasting more than 30 days before work can begin

  • Client must assess competency of project co-ordinator.

Co-ordinator must also perform self- assessment

  • Client has responsibility for workers’ welfare

  • Client must provide construction plan for all project phases

  • Pre-tender construction plan replaced by information pack giving prospective contractors more guidance on risks

  • Designers must provide risk assessments specific to the project, rather than general guidance

  • Title of CDM regulations to be retained after discussion