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Behind the new regs

Viewpoint - New health and safety regulations should be better tailored to the industry.

CDM 1994 and the Construction (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1996 (CHSW) implemented the European Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites Directive in the UK.

Although the CHSW requirements presented no radical changes for the industry, CDM created a major change. For the first time a set of regulations laid down a legal framework for how construction work should be managed to achieve health and safety.

The evolution of CDM has been a long process, driven by the recognition that CDM could be made to work better.

The revised CDM will incorporate into one set of regulations what was previously covered in both CDM 1994 and CHSW.

But the evolution is much more than a legal tidying up exercise.

Underlying all the changes is one simple fundamental aim: to reduce construction accidents and ill health.

CDM was not widely welcomed when it was introduced.

It imposed new duties, and created the new role of planning supervisor. The concept of a construction health and safety plan for work on site was seen as a novelty.

The requirement for a health and safety fire at the end of a project (to assist the client with future construction work) was often regarded as a burdensome chore to prepare and deliver. CDM became inextricably linked to an increasing but unhelpful amount of paperwork.

The useful and necessary paperwork for the safety of the project was very often in danger of being overwhelmed by a well-intentioned but needless bulk of paper.

Specifi duties were placed on designers to avoid foreseeable risks and provide adequate information about their designs. Even the client did not escape, being required to make relevant information available to others. All of this hardly seems remarkable now.

Following the 2002 discussion document Revitalising Health and Safety In Construction, a Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) working group was formed to assist with the revision. Revised regulations were published in a consultation document in 2005.

Prior to the final drafting of the revised CDM and the new Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) HSE consulted widely with the help and support of the ICE. The Health & Safety Commission also agreed that the guidance for CDM should be written by industry.

The outcome of this unprecedented consultation process will be a clearer and more flexible CDM which is less bureaucratic, and with an emphasis on competence at all levels.

The role of a client-empowered CDM co-ordinator will be central to the implementation of all but the smallest projects.

The introduction of CDM 1994 was a major step-change for the construction industry.

CDM 2007 is less drastic.

The focus needs to be on the effective planning and management of risk, not the production of paperwork. The challenge is for the industry to seize the opportunity offered by this revision.

Alec Ferguson is HM Inspector of Heath & Safety at the Health & Safety Executive

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