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New CDM regulations criticised over lack of clarity for designers

Designers will be left uncertain of their role under the new Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations as they lack clarity, a leading health and safety expert warned this week.
Capita Symonds' director of health and safety Martin Barnard added that the new regulations could also create additional beuraucracy for companies in proving their competency to carry out work, despite the revision being intended to simplify the process.His comments come after the Health & Safety Commission last week approved the changes to the regulations and sent them to ministers for approval. Standing Committee on Structural Safety secretary John Carpenter, who has written the guidance for the designer's role, said the new regulations are largely the same as the old, drawing a few changes from existing legislation to create a more joined-up system.But Barnard warned that designers will continue to separate out the task of meeting the CDM regulations from the daily design routine. 'Tasks, such as the design risk assessment, should not be treated as a box-ticking exercise separate from the job, it needs to be brought into the daily design process,' he said.Carpenter said the new guidance tries to integrate the responsibilities of the designer into normal business routines, adding that the industry has been hindered by cynicism towards regulation. 'This is a chance to wipe the slate clean, get rid of the cynicism and see if we can't weave this into our business.'Barnard said the Health & Safety Executive had the right approach to modifying the regulations by simplifying them to create a clearer, more joined-up piece of legislation.However he believes the issue of competency is its biggest weakness.Carpenter explained that the new regulations require a single document that proves a company is competent to carry out work in its chosen field, which can be given to clients without having to be tailored to suit individual projects.Barnard said: 'The effort to try and spell it [competency] out could make it too complicated for any industry to deal with. Competency, which is just one word, requires umpteen pages to describe it.'Key role changesClients are accountable for the impact their approach has on project health and safety. Co-ordinators are the key advisers to the client on competence and the adequacy of health and safety procedures.Designers must eliminate hazards and reduce risk right from the start. Designs should be safe to construct, use and maintain.Principal contractors must plan and manage the construction phase and co-ordinate activity on site.Contractors must co-operate with each other and the principal contractor on co-ordination of work.Have your say on CDM 2007Visit to take part in our unique industry survey

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