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May 16, 2012

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SHE 12 – CDM Regs – what lies beneath

Communication, cooperation and competency are fundamental to the successful application of the Construction, Design and Management (CDM) Regulations was the conclusion reached by a panel discussion held by the Access Industry Forum this morning (17 May).

A diverse panel from a cross-section of bodies were all in agreement that cooperation between principal contractors and subcontractors at the design stage of a project is vital, but cannot be relied on.

Nick Bell, a health and safety practitioner and author from the University of West England who regularly works with contractors, emphasised how crucial the design of work is at the very beginning of a job.

Stuart Downard, a health and safety specialist at Crossrail, a massive £15bn project, agreed that risks must be identified from a design perspective at a very early stage. He said that all parties involved in the Crossrail project agreed to design out any risks before the start of the work.

James Ritchie, from the Association for Project Safety, said: “The CDM coordinator has a pivotal role. We find that principal contractors do not always pass on relevant information to subcontractors. Contractors can unknowingly act as designers when planning and making their arrangements. A good CDM coordinator will iron out any difficulties.”

Ian Fyall from the National Access & Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) said that 50 per cent of clients organise the job properly, while 50 per cent say – can you start on Monday? “Sometimes it is down to the client, sometimes it is just bad planning by the main contractor,” he said.

So how do you not fall in that 50 per cent, asked chair Neil Tomlinson of Nick Bell. “We get our contractors together and work closely with them, explaining the project and our expectations,” said Nick. “We openly share lessons learned,” he added.

For Stuart at Crossrail, best practice is shared on a regular basis and things that are not going so well in the industry highlighted. “We get contractors and H & S managers together in one room for an open dialogue and also have a forum for their feedback,” he outlined.

James Ritchie added that although a large proportion of principal contractors are doing a very good job, there are many people with a “let’s just shove the scaffolding up” attitude, who do not think about design and don’t know a great deal about either the CDM or the Work at Height Regulations. “It is the people who are actually doing the work that need to take the message to the industry and think more clearly to anticipate any likely problems on a particular project.”

Nick pointed out that there are initiatives, such as the HSE’s Working Well Together initiative, targeting smaller contractors, but according to James, CDM coordinators should talk to everybody involved in terms of buildability, maintainability and usability across the whole project.” These three words are key,” he said.

Ian pointed out the necessity of checking that those involved are competent. “You must ask people on site if they are properly trained,” he said. “The 2007 revisions to the CDM Regs have clarified that you need properly qualified people,” he stressed.

Neil Tomlinson stressed the importance of leading by example to get people to accept the competence benchmarks that are out there. James pointed out that the people who assess by price are not necessarily getting the best value in the end. He said that the ‘M’ in the CDM Regs – ie the management part – should be seen as key. “We need to focus more on management,” he said.

So how do you ensure good management takes place? Nick Bell said managers should visit construction sites, check that the processes are working properly and undertake audits on larger sites. He said: “you can have the best contractors on paper but you need to speak to them to get a good feel”. 

Site visits and communication with staff are also vital in managing principal contractors, said Stuart. Neil pointed out that even though Nick and Stuart are in effect clients, they are proactive in their responsibilities.

James chipped in that being able to assess a situation properly is about communication. You need to tell people if, for example, there may be noise or vibration issues nearby to where scaffolding is about to be erected.

The chair asked the pertinent question of who pays for involving specialists at an early stage as propounded by the panel. “This is not the current culture. How do you overcome that?” he asked.

 “It is about persuading clients to have a long-term vision,” replied James. “Employing a specialist might cost them a £10,000  now, but will save them £20-£30,000 in the long run.”

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12 years ago

Our Client, a LA, issued poor info pre-tender and failed to appoint a CDMC.

We were advised by the LA post contract award that the water flow into a live culvert (1200mm dia) could be controlled at source by them?

The burn is fed by some 8 potential resevoirs with numerous overflow and sluice gates, but can be diverted if required. None of which was known at tender?

2 floods later, due to controlled water release, I raised concern with the LA, and they played the C/C card.


12 years ago

Whilst CDM works well on paper, and at the management stage, the problem lies with Sub-Contractors who try to take short cuts – not having the correct access equipment on site. e.g. – A scaffolder standing on a rope reel to fix that scaffolding clip, an electrician standing on the midrail of a cherry picker to reach the top of a lamp, when a button press for 2 seconds, and working of the platform would have cured it – safely.
The risk element is with the individuals on site who need training.

12 years ago

Absolute rubbish John.

The examples you cite are managerial/supervisory failings (omissions?)

Odds-on, the contractors so called risk assessment/s will have addressed to points – on paper – so that the box could be ticked.

One other point. Could the examples have been down to inadequate co-ordination and communication or pp programming by the principal contractor?

12 years ago

I disagree. Most of the problems with CDM lies with the management structure between Client, PC, CDM-C and Designer. For example, getting good and timely pre-construction information in the form of asbestos surveys/registers, service drawings, etc.

The guys on the tools generally work safely in my experience. Ok, a few cowboys out there, but these should be identified in PQQ, RAMS, site supervision and monitoring. The lowest tender does not always relate to good safety.

12 years ago

The cdm regs will never work unless the hse tackle the problem that allows the client to design what they want. By the time the contractors get onsite they have to comply with legislation like the WAH regs and provide protection accordingly. Safety is still not being address4ed by the client / designer