Much anticipated CDM 2015 guidance is issued


Cometh the New Year, cometh the new CDM Regulations. They will hit us in the new Tax Year to be precise, maybe to suit the HSE accountants, but guidance has just been issued to outline what the changes mean. Here is a guide to the guidance.

  • Principal designer. The CDM Co-ordinator role (under CDM 2007) disappears, and with it the involvement in many cases by professional safety consultants, to be replaced by a pre-construction responsibility for safety that will fall to the ‘Principal Designer’. HSE says that this will therefore “rest with an existing member of the design team” but as we shall see, that definition is subject to interpretation.
  • Client. There is a significant statement here: HSE says it recognises “the influence and importance of the client as the head of the supply chain and they are best placed to set standards throughout a project”. But are they? Remember that for the first time the Regulations catch all small domestic building projects. Does a non-professional client have any clue about this?
  • Competence. The definition here states that “this will be split into its component parts of skills, knowledge, training and experience, and - if it relates to an organisation – organisational capability. This will provide clarity and help the industry to both assess and demonstrate that construction project teams have the right attributes to deliver a healthy and safe project.” (To be honest this is so vague that I cannot judge what it means in real-world parlance).

Steady as she goes?

There is a general mood in the notes that we have nothing to worry about and that we will hardly notice the difference. This begs the question of why public money is being spent on it. I have picked out two sections of the guidance that I think are key (the highlighting is mine):

The technical standards set out in Part 4 of the new Regulations will remain essentially unchanged from those in guidance related to CDM 2007. HSE’s targeting and enforcement policy, as a proportionate and modern regulator, also remains unchanged.”

“For the first time, the new CDM Regs will apply to domestic client projects, although client duties will normally be transferred to the contractor or principal contractor, or if the client wishes to make a specific appointment, the designer.

So as I read it, HSE is admitting that small projects will simply by default dump the design safety obligations on the poor building contractor – not “an existing member of the design team” after all.

HSE Chief Inspector of Construction Philip White is quoted thus:

The guidance may be subject to change while the regulations are awaiting parliamentary approval but we want duty holders to have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the main requirements before they come into force. In addition we have worked with the industry to produce guidance to assist small businesses. Both sets of guidance complement each other and will help anyone affected by CDM 2015 to prepare for the changes in the law.

The draft industry guidance is here. HSE’s own notes in more detail are heheree.

Health & Safety Consultants are sceptical

Opinions among the lively Construction discussion forum on the HSE website do, quite naturally, vary but there is a prevailing opinion that the regulations do not represent an improvement and that the loss of the CDM Coordinators is a retrograde step. I was particularly struck by this assessment and its reference to the controversial Fees For Intervention:

My guess is that the policy makers “no change” line will be lost when Inspectors on the ground see the opportunities for influencing smaller projects. HSE is already shifting resources (slowly) to smaller projects and CDM 2015 will hasten that trend. The importance of FFI as opposed to prosecution should not be underestimated. I predict FFI will be increasingly used to deal with material breaches by PDs, clients and designers as well as contractors. The invoices are rarely challenged and will act as a spur to further action by these groups.

The general mood among the safety consultants that make up much of the forum is that their removal as CDM-Cs will do nothing to enhance safety. Small provincial architect practices will ignore their responsibilities and are unlikely to be prosecuted by HSE. The Principal Contractor will one again be the one who picks up the odium and the FFI when problems are uncovered. We shall see…