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CDM 2015: accident and design – first thoughts on the revision of CDM 2007

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​​​HSE has finally published its proposals to revise the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Some of the changes seem arcane, but they have the potential to bring about a cultural change in this vast and varied industry. But with some contentious proposals, what does the sector – in its many guises – actually think?


When the regulations were first introduced the industry had far higher fatal injury rates than it does today. In 1993/94, 91 people died while working in the construction industry – a rate of 5.7 deaths per 100,000 workers – more than twice as many as the number that died in 2012/13. Subsequently this figure declined before hitting a peak in 2000/01, when 105 workers died; a rate of six deaths per 100,000 workers.The CDM Regulations have great significance across the sector: there are over two million people working in construction, an industry with numerous subsectors and companies delivering a variety of services with different approaches: from building towering skyscrapers or digging enormous tunnels under the capital to replacing the guttering on your house.It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s finally here: four years after its evaluation began, HSE has published its proposals to revise the Construction (Design Management) Regulations 2007.

If the proposals go ahead in their current form the industry could well undergo significant change. But is this change for the better or worse? In the following pages industry practitioners give their opinions on the proposals.

The CDM Regulations first saw the light of day in 1994, introduced to implement the EU’s 1992 Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites Directive (TMCSD).

A step change
CDM 1994 represented a significant change to what had gone before – they outlined management arrangements for health and safety on construction projects, placing responsibilities on those who procure and design construction projects as well as those managing sites.

The regulations were revised and re-entered the statute books in 2007 – their current incarnation – in response to concerns they were structurally complex, created a large amount of bureaucracy and did not deliver what they were intended to – better health and safety standards.

On implementation the then Labour government committed to an early evaluation, after three years rather than five. This consisted of an external research project and a formal working group of Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) – HSE’s construction industry advisory committee.

This had been completed, but not published, when Professor Löfstedt carried out his review of the health and safety legislative framework, which gave the whole project renewed impetus, but also slowed it up. In his report the Professor said HSE should complete its evaluation by April 2012 “to ensure there is a clearer expression of duties, a reduction of bureaucracy and appropriate guidance for small projects”. After much wrangling and over two years later than planned, the proposed regulations have finally arrived. CDM 2015, as they will become known, are earmarked to come into force next April.

The European Commission announced in October last year that all 24 health and safety directives are under review, to be completed by October 2014, when the current commission’s term in power comes to an end. Faced with this prospect, could there be another TCMSD on the horizon, and therefore another set of CDM Regulations? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For those who don’t have the time or patience to read all 96 pages of the consultation, here’s a quick rundown. The proposals as they currently stand will usher in the following changes:

The 2007 regulations will be reorganised to mirror what actually happens during a structure’s life. The aim of this is to make them more comprehensible, straightforward and “significantly more accessible and relevant to those involved in small projects”.

The ACOP is being withdrawn on the grounds that those who will most benefit from reading it “find it inaccessible and do not read it because it is too long, complex and does not appear relevant to them”. Instead, a suite of guidance will be introduced targeting each dutyholder within the CDM framework – clients, designers, workers, contractors and so on. HSE is developing a new L-series document that will support the regulations. There are thoughts it might be badged up under the CONIAC moniker – the tripartite construction committee consisting of HSE, employer and industry representatives and trade unions.

Perhaps the most significant change is the proposal to scrap the CDM co-ordinator role – responsible for advising the client on their duties under the regulations – replacing it with a so-called principal designer (PD). The role will sit within the project team on the pre-construction phase. The consultation document states: “It is this element of control and influence over the design which are the fundamental differences between the CDM-C role and the PD role.” This, HSE hopes, will make the co-ordination an “integral business function rather than a separate and in many cases an externalised add on”.

Photograph: Duncan Harris

In evidence for this change, HSE cites the review of CDM carried out three years after its implementation, which found large parts of the industry thought CDM-Cs added little value, only added to bureaucracy. “Appointments are often made too late, too little resource is made available, and those involved in fulfilling the role are often not well embedded into the pre-construction project team,” the consultation document states.

Another of the most significant changes is the removal of explicit competency requirements, instead stating workers must have information, instruction, training and supervision, bringing it into line with the Health and Safety at Work Act. Gone too, then, is the requirement to assess corporate competence, which, according to HSE, “caused widespread confusion”. HSE says individual competence should be promoted through cultural change and leadership rather than regulation.

The exemption from client duties currently enjoyed by domestic clients will come to an end, but effectively in name only. The TMCSD makes no such provisions for homeowners. With the need to redraft the regulations in a way that will meet the requirements of the directive, but avoids the prospect of Mr and Mrs Smith facing legal action if someone is injured while replacing their roof tiles, HSE is proposing creating a default position where the client duties fall on the contractor, or principal contractor where more than one firm is working on the project. HSE hopes this will increase standards at the smaller end of the industry, which, according to its figures, now accounts for two thirds of all fatal injuries in the sector.

Among the more minor proposals include changes to the threshold for the appointment of a co-ordinator, which will change from 30 days or 500 person days, to wherever there is more than one contractor. Similarly, the threshold for notification will change. CDM 2007 stipulates a notification must be sent to HSE if a project is scheduled to last more than 30 days or 500 person days. Now, however, a notification will have to be sent to HSE if the project is planned to last more than 30 days and with more than 20 workers, or if it lasts more than 500 person days, which will bring it into line with the TMCSD. The effect this will have is HSE will receive fewer notifications, as the threshold is set higher.

HSE has stressed that these proposals can indeed change (and so could the opinions of some of the contributors – the Federation of Master Builders stressed that it was still consulting its members). But there is a feeling in some corners of the industry this is a fait accompli – that the regulations will go ahead as they are outlined in CD261 – but HSE insists it is not yet a done deal and input matters. So if you work in the industry, do respond.

 

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