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January 22, 2015

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Changes in event construction: a response to CDM 2015 draft guidance

By Simon Garrett

A significant change from CDM 2007 is that the new regulations will also apply to event construction where it never applied before. A letter from the chair of the HSE’s Joint Advisory Committee on Entertainment seeks to placate the events industry, which rightly robustly questioned the need to impose CDM in the first place and raised serious questions regarding the practicality of doing so.

HSE did not get off to a good start by arbitrarily dismissing the 28 per cent of responses in the consultation phase that came from the events industry as irrelevant and ‘a campaign’. They have since engaged more constructively with various trade bodies across the event sectors but less than 10 weeks out from implementation some serious questions remain unanswered.

CDM places new onerous criminal law duties on very specific and clearly identifiable companies and individuals. HSE’s assurances that nothing much has changed glosses over the fact that the legal status and the relationship between various parties in the industry will alter.

In most cases an event director or other senior director will take on the Client duties and will be much more liable for the actions of others further down the procurement chain. It is also unclear as to how an event organiser, particularly in exhibitions, is supposed to exercise Client duties over third party contractors who are not part of the procurement chain, many of whom will be foreign contractors (and for practical purposes beyond the reach of HSE) with no prior knowledge of CDM requirements.

HSE are saying that they will only target proactively a few high-risk events but they do not stipulate what they mean by that. We are also reliant on HSE’s interpretation of what a ‘sensible and proportionate approach to both regulation and compliance’ looks like and it is their interpretation that will count. To all intents and purposes, therefore the events and entertainments industry is currently in regulatory limbo. HSE’s assurances regarding proportionality are at best equivocal leaving event organisers with the dilemma of having to decide whether to direct resources towards compliance or simply ignore CDM and proceed at risk.

Given this situation and from a wider perspective, how are health and safety professionals and operations staff supposed to articulate a business case for preparation for compliance when HSE appear to be implying that it is ok for large swathes of the industry to ignore this law?

Key event stakeholders and HSE do agree that key to this will be event specific guidance which HSE is planning to publish on April 6 in tandem with the implementation of the regulations. HSE has rejected the notion of a transitory period for the events industry (which has been afforded to the construction industry). With less than 10 weeks to go the danger is the process will be rushed and the final product consequently flawed. The business impact assessment has been paused while the guidance is drafted and will only be completed after the law comes into force so its findings will presumably be nugatory. The irony is that CDM 2015 is an extension of the Government’s better regulation initiative.

In the interests of positive engagement, my colleagues in the industry have urged caution in taking HSE to task on this. However since our legitimate concerns were rejected without consideration during the consultation process HSE is in no position to complain if industry commentators seek to generate a more public discourse through IOSH and similar institutions.

Any event professional would acknowledge the health and safety challenges in the events industry and the need to drive improvements, the frustration is that no one, least of all HSE, has produced a cogent argument to support the notion that CDM 2015 is the solution to those challenges.

Simon Garrett is managing director of X-Venture Global Risk Solutions and author of the G-guide, a guide to global standards of health and safety at exhibitions.

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Phil Christopher
Phil Christopher

As Overlay Health and Safety Manager for LOCOG before, during and after the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, CDM 2007 formed the basis for the Management of all Overlay Construction, ranging from speaker poles and cable bridges to massive elements of Temporary Structure such as the Beach volleyball Venue on Horseguards Parade. While there were problems with trying to apply Construction Industry Standards like a 5 parts of PPE and “No shorts” (Over and above what Legislation may require or the Events Industry are used to), by explaining that the use of the CDM Regulations as a Management Framework to comply… Read more »