Revisions mean CDMCs have their work cut out
Richard Thorne MCIOB outlines the key changes in the forthcoming revisions to the CDM regulations and the implications of cutting out CDM Coodinators.
A large number of construction professionals remain unaware of the proposed CDM Regulations 2015, despite their implications. Hardly surprising, I suppose, given the HSE’s lack of progress in publishing its draft for consultation — hopefully by the time this magazine reaches you consultation will be well underway, or the proposed regulations shelved until after the next election.
Whichever the case, you should seek to gain an understanding of what is proposed by reading the CIC Working Group Report October 2012 which considers in detail the potential implications of CDM 2014 (as it was dated then). For updates on the consultation process, the Association for Project Safety website (www.aps.org.uk) and digests are certainly worth following.
In brief, the likely changes include:
- Creating CDM duties for domestic clients (likely to apply when projects last more than 30 days). Clients will be able to delegate these to a team member.
- The role of the CDM Coordinator disappearing altogether.
- Appointment of a project preparation stage coordinator role – likely to be the principal designer.
- Appointment of a project execution coordinator – likely to be the principal contractor. Splitting the role will align CDM with the 1992 EU directive.
- Tackling the perceived waste associated with pre-qualification assessments and competence.
- A focus on the performance of smaller projects.
Assuming that elements of the regulations may not be welcomed by all, during a health and safety review meeting on a recent project, I set out to seek the views of an architect and lead designer. The meeting, the first opportunity for me to engage the design team for a £20m redevelopment project, went well and I was impressed by how this firm had developed its thoughts and considerations for health and safety. Needless to say, I soon concluded that this fellow (like many other architects I have worked with, particularly on collaborative projects) would be well suited to the proposed lead designer/coordinator role.
When we moved on to the issue of CDM 2015 I was met with expressions of horror and disbelief. My new colleague was totally unaware of the proposed regulations and forthcoming consultation process. However, he quickly grasped many of the key issues, including:
- If applied, CDM 2015 would remove the valued input and scrutiny of health and safety aspects by an independent specialist directly appointed by the client.
- While architects are well placed to lead on health and safety in design, many would not wish to take on additional responsibilities.
- If imposed, preparation for the coordination role will take time and resources.
- Will there be sufficient fee available to pay for these additional services and corresponding increase in professional indemnity insurance premiums?
It was refreshing to learn that an architect valued the input of the CDMC as views do vary considerably. The HSE, however, has been persuaded that they must go. Ironically, this stance takes us full circle from where we started in 1994.
My view, based on 18 years’ experience as a project supervisor and CDMC, is that many designers, particularly architects, have improved considerably and will no doubt take on the new lead designer role with energy and commitment. In contrast, and since the start of the recession, I have seen downward pressure on fees to a level where it is often difficult or damn near impossible to deliver compliant and proactive CDMC services. This, coupled with a mixed bag of practitioners, adds strength to calls for change.
I have discussed the question of fees many times with my contacts in HSE but while they acknowledge problems exist, the answer has always been that there is no political will to address the situation hence nothing can be done. So, going back to my meeting, will clients support the allocation of sufficient fees to the lead designer? I fear not.
If the HSE expects the proposed regulations to succeed then it must create and enforce a legislative framework that clearly identifies its expectations. At the same time I urge that expectations for resources, competence and fees are considered so as to avoid the situation I describe with CDMC fee levels. To this end, HSE must ensure that the negative aspects of “market” forces does not restrict delivery on health and safety.
If I come across as being somewhat negative I am not. I see merit in much of the proposed changes and acknowledge that many CDMCs have only themselves to blame for their likely demise. CDM 2015 presents opportunities for competent CDMCs, but I suggest that they now anticipate a change in employer.
Richard Thorne MCIOB is director of Richard Thorne Consulting