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CDM regulations

Debate

The Construction Design & Management regulations are approaching their fifth anniversary amid complaints that they do not work and generate piles of unnecessary paperwork. New HSE chief inspector for construction Kevin Myers said he would target designers to make the regulations more effective.

This week we ask: Have the CDM regulations made a difference to safe design?

Yes

Paul Craddock associate director, Ove Arup & Partners

To decide if CDM has made a difference to safe design, it is important to reflect on what expectations we had of CDM before its introduction and during the early days.

I expected designers to gradually become more aware of the problems that contractors might inherit as a consequence of their designs, and I expected them, where they could, to do something about the health and safety risks in their designs. And, by and large, they have done this.

What I did not expect was for the statistical evidence of health and safety on construction sites to markedly improve in a way that could be easily attributed to CDM - and I haven't been disappointed.

So let us be clear about what CDM for designers can be expected to deliver. It should and is delivering a gradually improving environment for health and safety in construction. The job of the contractors and the principal contractor - who act as a filter between the designer and the man on site who actually does the work - is less difficult than it used to be.

Undoubtedly, there will be many who disagree, particularly the contractors who are still faced with re-engineering designs so that they can be built safely. There are, though, an increasing number of examples where a bit more thought or attention to detail on the part of designers has improved matters. This may not be obvious to the contractor wrestling with some other problem but, nevertheless, the improvement is there.

I am not gullible - I know that the industry has a long way to go. And this becomes more and more obvious to me when, as a planning supervisor, I compare the performance of good designers to those who are not so good.

However, the mere fact that I can produce a 'good' example is irrefutable evidence that CDM is making a positive difference.

No

Alan Pemberton director, Brian Clancy Partnership.

I have never seen evidence that engineers in preparing designs take a reckless attitude. However, five years after the introduction of the CDM regulations, how many engineer designers can truly say that they have made significant changes to their design in order to achieve a structure which is significantly safer to build, maintain or demolish?

Designers must bring health and safety matters to the attention of the client at the earliest opportunity, and I think this is an area where the Health and Safety Executive could police the industry to some effect. It could, after notification of the project, call for evidence, such as a record of meetings between clients and their designers, showing that health and safety considerations had been discussed at the earliest opportunity.

Designers must also be bold enough to put to their client radical alternatives for the project without fear, criticism or accusation that they were advocating alternatives which would increase cost or cause delay. The HSE could assist by coming down hard on clients who treat designers unfairly should they take this more pro-active approach.

I believe the HSE could provide more information on the aspects of design which lead directly to accidents or fatalities on sites or during maintenance of the building.

The HSE is right to direct its attention to the design process because it is at that stage of the project that many decisions are taken which irrevocably shape the construction process and completed structure.

Designers must be given the resources to consider and implement health and safety improvements in their designs from the very earliest stage of their appointments. Clients must respect the obligations of designers to carry out these tasks and ensure that they are financially compensated for doing so.

The facts

The Health & Safety Executive is reviewing the guidelines for using CDM. A consultation document will be released in the summer.

A Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions health & safety report published last July showed that construction accidents dropped from 1,655 injuries per 100,000 workers in 1993 to 1,485 injuries per 100,000 workers in 1997/98.

There are currently 4,500 planning supervisors working in construction.

A DETR consultation document on health & safety in the construction industry is due out this summer.

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