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Opportunity or threat?

The proposed changes to the CDM Regulations 2007 put the client's neck on the block over health and safety.

The construction industry is polarised over the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007), the new safety regulations which will succeed the original CDM Regulations published in 1994. Political parties are preparing to do battle over the legislation in parliament while lobby groups and institutions campaign on either side of the debate (see news).

The greatest bone of contention lies in the revisions to the client's role. Under the new regulations clients will take a greater responsibility for health and safety on the project.

They will no longer be able to discharge the liability to a client's agent nor seek advice from a planning supervisor.

Instead the client will need to employ a CDM co-ordinator for advice on health and safety issues.

Supporters of the revisions believe this will bring about an improvement in health and safety on site. As the client funds the project, they believe that he or she is best placed to improve site safety.

CDM 2007 critics think it unfair to laden a client with liabilities for health and safety when he or she has never professed to be an expert on the subject, and would rather discharge the liability to a competent body.

The man in the middle, Health & Safety Executive (HSE) principal and specialist inspector Andrew East, sees it as a 'miscommunication' of what the regulations involve.

East strongly disagrees with the critics, but admits 'some of the smaller clients have expressed concerns we'll obviously address.' But CDM 2007 should really be beneficial for clients, ' he says.

'The message here to all duty holders is that this really benets the process. It's not meant to be a burden. It's not meant to be hindering people it's actually meant to be enabling things to be done.' Overall, East sees it as a time to build on past successes and learn from previous failures.

'This is a clear opportunity for industry to take stock of what's worked well and what hasn't worked so well. Draw a line, re-look at the systems re-look at what you're doing to move on to ultimately improve the construction process.' 'CDM 1994 was very successful in the sense that it raised the prole of health and safety. It, perhaps for the rst time, involved designers and clients in looking at the risks to the industry holistically.

'There have been great improvements in health and safety over that time and I think that should be recognised and celebrated.' 'The downside to CDM 1994 is that it tended to get a bit procedural orientated. People were very reliant on systems and paper with some perhaps losing the focus on why they were doing it.

'It was about reducing risk but it became a separate process, and started getting pigeon holed when the ultimate object of CDM is integrated in the thinking of the construction process by designers and contractors.

'Health and safety is an integral part of the industry and needs to be properly planned and managed within the process not just bolted on because that's when it gets wasted - you're wasting your time you're wasting your money.' East explains there is a transition period to assist a smooth transition from the old regulations to the new. Existing projects will have ve years to transfer from CDM 1994 to CDM 2007.

Projects starting after the 6 April target enforcement date must comply with the new regulations immediately.

'A lot of the actual details of the regulations haven't changed, so in those areas there is not a grace period, ' says East.

East is also keen to reassure the industry that the HSE is not out to trip the industry up with the new regulations.

'We're not rushing out on the 7 April to close everybody down.

What we want actually is for people to understand the change and make the difference.'

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