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November 10, 2010

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Construction group chief vents anger at CDM non-compliance

The head of a leading construction body has said he is “personally appalled” by a new report, which reveals a widespread lack of both effective management of health and safety risks and compliance with the CDM Regulations.

Prof Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group (SEC), was speaking to SHP following the publication by the SEC of ‘Experience of working with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007’ last week. The report is based on a detailed survey of engineering contractors working in construction supply chains on large projects.

Among the findings that so incensed Prof Klein were:

  • a lack of early involvement of engineering contractors in working with design teams to risk-assess design outcomes;
  • little preparatory work being done on risk management before work actually begins on site;
  • non-provision of information about site health and safety risks before work commences; and
  • lack of involvement of supply chains in decisions relating to managing site health and safety risks.

Said the professor: “I am personally appalled by the survey results – that nothing has changed since CDM 2007, because there has been so little communication aimed at managing risk.

“The fact is, there are a number of principal contractors who aren’t carrying out their duties properly. There is no pre-construction information being provided for the supply chain; they’re not told if it’s a notifiable project; and they don’t know who the CDM coordinator is.”

Fundamentally, however, the problems are structural, he added: “The industry and clients simply do not manage risk effectively, either. To manage risk, you have to have dialogue and communication. These are basic duties under CDM 2007 – cooperation and communication, from design to handover. Basically, we are managing by not managing!”

According to the SEC, the solution is to strengthen the CDM Regulations so that all notifiable projects are required to have a health and safety plan, which sets out the risks and how they will be addressed, and which is then signed off by the whole team involved, for presentation to the client and the HSE as evidence that the project is safe to start construction.

Said Prof Klein: “Hopefully, this will encourage the early appointment of engineers and designers, which will, in turn, save money. Currently, money is wasted through fragmentation and preventable incidents.”

Paul Reeve, head of HS&E at the Electrical Contractors’ Association, which is a member of the SEC, commented: “This report underlines that, all too often, an essential element of construction safety management – proper communication – has gone AWOL. The least we should look for from communication is a two-way exchange of essential health and safety information, in good time. For some, even this appears to be a bridge too far. Perhaps we need to supplement behavioural and technical training with supply-chain communication training – emphasising what it is, and why it’s vital to site safety.”

UKCG, the group representing construction contractors, declined to comment on the report while the HSE’s evaluation of the CDM Regulations is ongoing. A large-scale survey, as well as a series of workshops and open forums for stakeholders have been carried out as part of this evaluation over the last five months or so, and the results are likely to be published sometime next year.

The SEC report can be downloaded from

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13 years ago

My years in this sector on safety both in ‘fit to use & build’, it does not surprise me.. an engineer & safety professional we tend to be the last in the chain and clients still get it wrong – 2007 CDM was to change this but what has changed? Balances are what a clients likes to think he’s getting – cost, time & safety but still lacks getting his head into safety elements & its approaches. Savings naturally made by employing engineers & safety folk early – getting it right 1st time! – too hard?