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November 11, 2014

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CDM 2015 – Where are we now?

Whatever the HSE’s good intentions, CDM 2015, in the hands of contract lawyers, insurers and health and safety professionals, will grow into a costly burden that goes well beyond what was intended.

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The events industry took part in the HSE’s consultation providing 28% of the responses which broadly told the HSE that to impose CDM on the industry would be costly and unworkable as the proposed regulation was wholly unsuitable for our industry. The HSE acknowledged there would be challenges and then rejected event industry responses as ‘a campaign’. The HSE persists in referring to the events industry as ‘the entertainment sector’ thus ignoring the significant proportion of it in trade exhibitions and conferences. It underscores the point that the HSE has little understanding of the events industry on which it is about to impose this legislation. As we stand CDM will apply to construction activities and temporary and demountable structures work in event construction from April 2015.

The HSE’s Melvin Sandell gave a presentation to the events industry at which he stated that it will be applied ‘in a proportionate manner relative to the risk’. He gave the example that building a film set would be a construction job and full CDM rules would apply but building a single seating tribune may only require a beefed up method statement and associated risk assessment. I have no reason to doubt that proportionality is their intention however this was also their intention when the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations came into being (1992) requiring a risk assessment on all work activities involving significant risk. This was a signal for officialdom in all its forms to completely overreach this requirement to the point where school children could not go on a nature walk in a park with a teacher without the requirement to fill out several forms. Whatever the HSE’s good intentions, this law in the hands of contract lawyers, insurers and sad to say health and safety professionals will grow into a costly burden that goes well beyond what was intended.

A number of cost impact studies have been conducted for events. It is salutary that one of the studies concerns the costs to the wedding industry because it seems that setting up for a wedding could fall under the regulations. Whilst it seems fanciful I can easily see how a wedding coordinator in future will simply include the cost of a consultant to conduct the paperwork necessary for CDM compliance.

In exhibitions and conferences it is not clear how the costs will fall. I can see venues retreating behind hire agreements much as they do in Europe where the organiser takes all of the responsibility and liability for compliance. The French appear to have incorporated the EU Directive which gave rise to CDM, into their Labour Code for construction. UK organisers in France have to hire a French contractor to produce a legally compliant health and safety file. All it actually generates is a lot of paperwork and an invoice to the event organiser without any obvious benefit to health and safety. The big Parisian venues do not directly involve themselves in health and safety as long as the right boxes are ticked. This is precisely the approach the HSE says it is trying to avoid, yet this is a working example of how this EU directive is applied to events. The exhibitions and conference industry in particular lends itself to a ‘hire an empty box’ approach that allows venues to distance themselves from the legal liabilities of the event which will encourage compliance for its own sake.

So what next? The Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) is tasked with writing the core documentation for CDM, the ACoP, and supporting information. Each industry has to produce its own official guidance but until we see the full expectations of the parent regulation we will be unable to formulate guidance for events. My concern is this will result in a one-size-fits-all events document. The reason why we currently have a plethora of event sector specific health and safety guides is that there is a big difference between building an outdoor rock festival (Purple Guide1) and an indoor exhibition (eGuide2).

If you do happen to have the ear of a relevant legislator or influencer in this process then the message should be this. No one who has ever visited the build up of a festival or large trade show can be in any doubt that it is a potentially hazardous environment that requires the highest professional standards of risk management. Where companies or individuals fail to live up to those standards, however, it is not for the lack of legislation or guidance. The Health and Safety at Work Act, relevant subsidiary regulation and the event industry guidance that currently exists provides an ample regulatory framework so diverting resources into compliance with a new regulation for its own sake will not enhance the overall risk management effort and may actually detract from it.

  1. The Purple Guide to Health Safety and Welfare at Music and Other Events
  2. The AEV eGuide – Guidance for Events and Conferences in UK Venues

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