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PFI used its initiative on safety

Safety - PFI has been driving improvements in health and safety long before the arrival of CDM, argues Skanska technical director Adrian Sprague.

In April this year the Health and Safety Executive launched the new Construction (Design and Management) regulations (CDM). Despite the continued debate over the wording of the regulations and the accompanying papers, it is generally thought that the underlying intentions of the regulations are sound.

After all, few would dare to argue that alerting a designer to a project's health and safety issues is not a good idea.

But Skanska technical director Adrian Sprague says that in fact this approach was already in use decades before the CDM regulations arrived.

With the take off of the private finance initiative (PFI) in the 1980s, contractors and consultants found themselves responsible for projects for a good part of their functioning life. It was therefore in their own interests to think longer term.

'We've learnt so much from the PFI process: we know about a project's life cycle issues and what we need to do to hand over a safe building. We now have that responsibility with CDM but we end up pretty much following the same process as before anyway.

'When we're running these PFI projects for a number of years we ask ourselves how we can maintain the building in a safe manner, ' he says.

'The answer is that we have to start with safety in mind, so that we've got suf cient maintenance access; eliminated the trip hazards; got the appropriate signage in the right place and also thought through our replacement strategy.' Sprague says that another advantage of PFI is that it tends to bring the contractor in at an earlier stage, making it easier to identify risks and challenges at the construction stage.

'If you're thinking about pure communication and pure safety then involving and having input from the contractor at an early stage is really important.

'That cannot be underestimated.

If you've got the right contractor on board he can make a real difference because he's got his own ideas and if you can ush out those ideas then you are going to go someway towards eliminating plan B.' The dreaded plan B, he explains, is usually based on improvisation, a 'let's do this instead of that' approach, and poses the greatest danger of all in the construction process.

He says: 'The method statement must make clear what plan A is, because if the workforce decides on plan B you've got a problem.

'A good method statement, born of good design, should always eliminate the possibility of plan B. If you're leaving the workforce with decisions to make then you haven't got a properly detailed design.' Once the design is complete and the method statements are written, Sprague says that it's vitally important to avoid making any changes, because they're just too disruptive, timeconsuming and costly.

'We're dead set on getting our design right rst time. When you've got 30 or 40 consultants in tow, working any changes through the system becomes a nightmare to coordinate, manage or control.

'When you've got clear objectives and clear deliverables, to introduce change is disruptive.'

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