• Simon Toseland
  • 4 November 2013

CDM Coordinators vital for health and safety in construction

I am very privileged to Head up the team of CDM Coordinators within Workplace Law, which as a unit endeavours to provide the best possible service we can to our clients. We receive many plaudits but I have a more personal, wider agenda, of raising the profile of health and safety (and the CDMC role) within the industry. I passionately believe that, with empowerment to become a focal player within a project team, good CDMCs can significantly contribute to raise standards of health and safety on a construction project which, in turn, improves programme and cost certainty as well as ongoing safety issues associated with future operation, maintenance and  demolition.

This may seem like a futile campaign, particularly with the knowledge that the CDMC role as we know it will almost certainly be revoked once the new CDM Regulations come into force. Their functions will, in all likelihood, fall to the ‘Lead’ or ‘Principal’ Designer. However those ‘intelligent’ Clients and design organisations we work with recognise the importance (and value) of the role we play, and have given reassurance that they will continue to use us to provide an external safety support function.

Those of you at the Association for Project Safety’s convention in Belfast a few weeks ago would have seen the excellent presentation by Clive Johnson, Group Head of Health and Safety for Land Securities. Clive reinforces this view by stating that he appoints CDMCs who he sees fit to convey Land Securities’ ‘One Best Way standard’, acting as the eyes and ears of the Client. He has not only set minimum standards of competency but also looks to engage those who have the right personal attributes. He too has also vowed to continue to use this strategy which plays a critical part in meeting his Corporate Health and Safety objectives.  Workplace Law is proud to be part of his select few!

If Clients and Designers do choose to outsource this role and follow the Land Securities model then I can see the benefits. After all, they would effectively be engaging ‘CDM Coordinators’ in a sub-contractor  capacity and therefore more likely to spend time ensuring that they appoint a reputable firm – something that doesn’t happen nearly enough!

The other proposal under review is the removal of Appendix 4 from the Approved Code of Practice (L144). The expectation, I think, is that Clients and Principal Contractors will be steered towards PAS 91 2013, The Construction Related Procurement Prequalification Questionnaire. This is a far more onerous assessment than what is currently specified in the ACoP as it covers sections on resource and environmental (not just health and safety). So again, a potentially positive move as those organisations who promote good practice in HSE management should prevail, but will it result in even more red tape? Will we see organisations claiming to accredit companies who can demonstrate being PAS 91 complaint? Clearly a lot more work will be involved and so it is almost certain that higher fees will be sought. 

In many quarters, these changes are seen as a drastic move on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive; after all, Professor Lofsted in his review claimed that the CDM Regs are generally ‘fit for purpose’. Agreed, we need clearer guidance on competency and better interpretation – but the removal, or transfer, of the CDMCs functions? I’m not so sure. This move could cause further confusion and lose the impartial health and safety review and assistance that are a crucial part of the Design Risk Management process, particularly on larger or more complex projects. We have also seen many cases where designers have taken on the CDM role and have failed to fully implement these duties, resulting in some life-threatening incidents.

The HSE has just announced health and safety statistics for 2012/13, which shows the lowest number of fatal accidents (39) on record in Construction, and yes, this is under the current regime.