THE CONSTRUCTION (Design & Management) health and safety regulations were this week condemned for failing to produce any noticeable safety improvements on construction sites in the five years since they were introduced.
Former Health & Safety Executive senior inspector John Anderson urged the HSE to overhaul the current legislation. He added that CDM had cost the UK construction industry a fortune in unnecessary paperwork.
'It is not just that the CDM regulations have had no effect, they have had the wrong effect,' said Anderson, who works as an independent health and safety consultant. 'They have cost the construction industry hundreds of millions of pounds in pointless filing and there has been no measurable improvement in the accident records.'
The regulations were introduced in March 1995 to force designers and clients to take account of safety in their designs for construction and maintenance. But since then, there has been no significant drop in fatal accident statistics in construction, claimed Anderson.
The HSE plans to publish a consultation document in the summer to look at ways to improve the CDM Approved Codes of Practice. But Anderson claimed this was merely 'tinkering at the edges' and would not go far enough to correct flaws in the regulations.
Anderson's views were supported by an HSE commissioned report published in 1998 by Oxford-based researcherthe Consultancy Company.
The report concludes: 'The actual effect (of the regulations) has been to make designers and clients who are now in the firing line introduce extra paperwork to cover themselves. The result is a lot of backside covering not linked to safety. And there has been no obvious reduction in accident figures.'
New HSE chief inspector of construction Kevin Myers admitted there was room for improvement in the way CDM was being implemented, but he denied that the fault lay in the regulations. He said an interim HSE report had already highlighted 'bits of grit in the system' which could be addressed through the planned review of the CDM APoC and did not require changes to legislation.
He said: 'There is no doubt that, for some, CDM has led to an increase in paperwork and bureaucracy with an element of people covering their backs. We will be looking at this and other issues highlighted in our review of the ACoP but there is no doubt the regulations have been effective.'
ICE's health and safety board chairman Mike Evans said: 'CDM has raised awareness of safety issues and has got others involved, but has a long way to go in getting designers to design risk out. They are still getting used to identifying risk and passing it on to contractors who are already aware of them.'