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Since 1995, the mandatory requirement under the criminal law for construction designers (as employers) to have regard to the consequences of their design decisions on others has been explicit.
The principle behind this is sound: a failure to do so cannot only affect the wellbeing of others (the rationale of the legislation), but can also have a significant financial impact.
Careful pragmatic application of the former can directly benefit the latter, and in good risk management one should not be able to see the join. However, this legal requirement has been fraught with difficulties since it was introduced and it has not realised its potential.
The industry is about to be confronted with the third version of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM2015) still none the wiser nor, it appears, closer to a resolution.
The nub of the matter is that the legal requirement to eliminate hazard, or mitigate risk, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ – the core obligation on designers – is not understood.
How far does a designer go in this regard given the myriad of circumstances which may arise? How much extra cost would be considered reasonable in this endeavour? How do we achieve consistency of approach?
Contractors have worked with this responsibility for many years but they have, in the main, a wealth of advice to illustrate what ‘compliant’ looks like for high-risk and common activities. There is no comparable authoritative advice or example for designers in respect of the specific questions posed above.
This dilemma is a major drag on the design fraternity specifically, and industry generally. Many designers fail to give any serious attention to this matter; many more produce paperwork purporting to satisfy the obligation, but which frequently adds little value. Even those who make serious effort are unable to explain how they determine whether they are compliant.
As we approach the third version of CDM, industry deserves an answer.
John Carpenter is a consultant and author of Guidance for Designers, published under HSE auspices by CITB and of appendix 4 of the current ACoP.
For the full feature on this, look out for SHP November, pages 36-39, out on 3 November