UK: A New Design For CDM?

Last Updated: 25 April 2014
Article by Lukas Rootman

Summary and implications

The changes proposed by the HSE in the new draft CDM regulations are underpinned by a desire to improve standards of health and safety, particularly on smaller construction sites. The changes attempt to provide a regulatory framework which is more appropriate and relevant to smaller sites and generally to remove bureaucracy across the industry.

The construction industry remains, statistically, one of the highest risk industry sectors to work in. According to data collected by the HSE, the construction industry still accounts for an average of 53 work-based fatalities and around 31,000 new cases of occupational disease and/or ill health in every year.

The current Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (the CDM Regulations 2007) came into force on 6 April 2007, and brought together into one regulatory package the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 and the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996. The key aim of the CDM Regulations 2007 was to improve health and safety by encouraging everyone to work together in collaboration to:

  • improve the planning and management of projects from the start, reducing unexpected costs and problems;
  • identify risks early on;
  • treat health and safety considerations as an integral but normal part of a project's development (not an afterthought);
  • simplify the assessment of competence to raise standards;
  • target effort where it can do the most good in terms of health and safety; and
  • discourage unnecessary bureaucracy and paper work.

Effectiveness of previous requirements

The CDM Regulations 2007 have received criticism since their introduction. One notable challenge has been on their effectiveness and impact on smaller construction sites. According to the HSE, the balance of where serious and fatal injuries occur has shifted "dramatically" over the past 10 to 15 years. Over two thirds of fatalities now occur on sites where fewer than 15 people work, suggesting that companies operating larger sites have made faster progress in improving health and safety management.

Proposed changes

Against this background, the challenge for the HSE, and potentially a key driver behind the public consultation on the replacement of the existing regulations, is to provide a regulatory framework that applies to (and is more aligned with) the needs and requirements of smaller construction sites, which are often run and operated by SMEs. The HSE's evaluation of the existing regulations has also found a number of other issues, including, amongst others:

  • concerns over the existing regulations' effectiveness in delivering reduced bureaucracy;
  • the introduction of an industry-led approach to competence which has become heavy-handed and, in many cases, burdensome (particularly on SMEs); and
  • the potential for the co-ordination function in the pre-consultation phase to become unsuitable or as the HSE puts it, not "well-embedded".

The HSE has pointed out that none of the changes it has proposed are yet set in stone, and that views are welcomed on the new (draft) CDM regulations in order to outline current thinking. The draft regulations will of course be subject to ministerial and parliamentary scrutiny, but as drafted key changes from the existing CDM Regulations 2007 include:

  1. the replacement of the Approved Code of Practice with tailored guidance;
  2. the replacement of the CDM co-ordinator role with a new role, that of the "Principal Designer";
  3. the replacement of the duty to assess competence with new specific requirements for appropriate skills; and
  4. the removal of the domestic client exemption and the transfer of these limited duties to the contractor/designer. 

The proposed changes to the existing regulations may be of interest to clients of construction work (including homeowners as clients), designers, principal contractors, contractors, sub-contractors, CDM co-ordinators, safety representatives and other people or organisations with an interest in construction projects.

The consultation opened on 31 March 2014 and closes on 6 June 2014. The full consultation document, together with details on how to provide your views, is available on the HSE website using the following link:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/consult/condocs/cd261.htm

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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