Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
April 7, 2015

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

CDM 2015 – A new dawn for construction design management

sunrise-165094_640By Paul Bussey, Associate, Scott Brownrigg

On the 6 April 2015 the new Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015 came into effect, following a lengthy five-year evaluation of the CDM 2007 Regulations. While the new regulations will have significant implications for all those involved in construction, the intention is simple – to prevent the ill health or death of construction and maintenance operatives, while also allowing for the delivery of good design – and this will, in part, be realised by replacing the appointment of a CDM-Coordinator with the appointment of a ‘principal designer’.

The evaluation process has been an object lesson in the importance of good coordination between all parts of the construction industry, which was the original intention of the regulations. The outcome is a re-focusing on the team approach, underpinned by the intentions of the overarching 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, and aimed at proportionality, reasonable foreseeability, and practicability. This, in conjunction with the 1999 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations where the concept of “suitable and sufficient assessment of risk” was reinforced, set the landscape within which the 1994 and 2007 CDM Regulations operated.

While originally intended for the process industries where absolute duties to eliminate and reduce risk could be applied, the application of these regulations to design tasks has been much more complex. This has, in some cases, led to confusion and unintentional misinterpretation by some non-design trained duty-holders, who have expected designers to ‘design out’ all risk from their concept designs. The implementation of such expectations can stifle creative, innovative design and inhibit designers from establishing acceptable or tolerable levels of risk within the constraints of cost, time, quality, aesthetics, and contextual expectations of individual projects.

This disconnect has caused frustration within the industry, and has highlighted the need to balance and coordinate health and safety prevention principles and innovative design right from the start of the design stage. A return to the original intentions of the ‘planning supervisor’ in 1994 has been necessary. The new principal designer role addresses these issues and, as required by the 1992 EU Directive, provides a health and safety coordinator of the project preparation phase embedded within the existing design team and in control of preparing and modifying [actual] designs.

The new principal designer function is thus intended to be a corporate one, to integrate health and safety considerations into the design process in a proportionate and practicable manner, to avoid and minimise risk, so far as reasonably practicable, and to provide a design which not only meets the client brief but sets and identifies a tolerable level of risk for the client to fund, the contractor to build, and the user to operate.

In order to facilitate such an equitable position it is essential that the entire project team is able to work together as a cohesive unit, without the fear of blame or civil or criminal prosecution in the event of a failure or accident. Unfortunately history shows us that, in carrying out complex and sophisticated tasks, it is almost inevitable that some accidents will occur, primarily due to human behaviour, unforeseeable events, and calamity, even though we have made huge progress to reduce their occurrences and impact. A plateauing of health and safety statistical evidence across the world supports this claim. The aspiration to simply “design out” risk has arguably reached its effective limits. There is now a need to identify a more sophisticated, and more intuitive process of risk identification, analysis and safety integration with the end result of reducing risk. This “Hazard Awareness Risk Management” (0-HARM) process sets a new agenda for health and safety and is at the heart of a worldwide “Safety Differently” approach, which we identify here as “CDM Differently”.

Design, and the communication of design, is a highly visual process requiring the production of visual images to assimilate the various contributory threads of team members into one cohesive entity. The integration of safety into design is no different. By identification of potential harm visually and directly on drawings, issues can be discussed in design and project team forums, managed to a tolerable level within the constraints of the design intent, and embedded into the normal design process. The alternative narrative or numerical method for identifying, analysing, and recording risk cannot communicate all the contributory factors to complicated risk pathways in complex designs in the same direct, transparent, and collaborative way.

The immediate future requires the industry to re-organise itself during the project preparation (design) phases to embrace risk and identify levels of tolerability. At the other end of the process, during the project execution (construction) phase, small and medium sized contractors need to embed these regulations into their approach. The professional institutions and trade associations need to take ownership of the skills, knowledge and experience of their own members, and that of similar professionals, by the introduction of suitable and sufficient training and lifetime learning processes – to move away from the unintended prevalence of competency assessment and card schemes that have developed.

This process will require a level of integrated professionalism from all construction industry participants, including the Health and Safety Executive inspectors and prosecution officers, public indemnity insurance lawyers, and other judicial members of the legal system. Case law should not be the only means to test whether or not these interpretations of the regulations are adequate.

The new CDM landscape should enable design innovation and excellence whilst also facilitating the inclusion of safe methods of working on every construction project; an outcome to which we can all aspire.

P BusseyPaul Bussey is the author of CDM 2015: A Practical Guide for Architects and Designers. This guide from RIBA Publishing introduces and explains the new CDM Regulations 2015. With full colour diagrams and annotated plans, it details key changes and outlines practical tools to integrate the philosophy of the regulations into day-to-day practice.

Paul  is an Associate Technical Consultant at Scott Brownrigg and has 35 years of experience as an architect, the last 20 years of which he has worked with architects and the wider industry to apply the CDM regulations to design projects. He writes widely on CDM for the APS, RICS and other learned journals and also provides CPD for architects on implementing CDM for the RIBA.

Related Topics

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ray Rapp
Ray Rapp
9 years ago

An interesting assessment of CDM 2015 from a design perspective – I was tempted to ask whether it was a ‘new dawn’ or ‘false dawn’?

Moreover, the penultimate paragraph appears to be a wish list. These often conflicting, or is to competing roles, will have a different perspective, but usually following a serious incident. Unfortunately the only true measure of compliance is in a court of law, where factors such as, hindsight and outcome, tend to dominate the proceedings.

Susan Froggett
Susan Froggett
9 years ago

Thanks Paul – a very practical look at how C D M regulations are supposed to be applied, however I’m afraid I agree with Ray regarding the ‘false dawn’ – its taken five years to evaluate the effectiveness of the regulations? Really? Any medium sized general contractor could have evaluated them in five minutes – clients don’t really understand them, designers/architects aren’t interested in applying them, that’s our job and CDM-C’s pull apart the Construction Phase Plan to earn their crust. Sweeping statements and generalisation I know – and I’m sure some CDM-C’s will be hopping up and down but,… Read more »