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CDM Regulations 2015: One year on

It’s more than a year since the new CDM Regulations came into force. What effect have they had on the industry?

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 meant significant change for anyone using contractors from 6 April 2015.

This was not only due to a change in duty-holders and their responsibilities, but because smaller-scale works and domestic projects were for the first time required to follow the CDM process.

Anyone commissioning works, using contractors, designing, pricing, scoping or delivering projects has had to review their arrangements and act.

We are now one year on, but CDM has not been without its challenges.

Initially, there was a transitional period for works where a CDM co-ordinator had already been appointed, which gave these projects until 6 October 2015 to transition over to the new regulations.

This actually caused some confusion because some organisations believed they did not have to comply until this date.

Scope of the regulations

By far the largest number of queries I’ve dealt with have concerned the scope of the regulations, due to the definition within them on what is considered to be construction – in particular, the inclusion of ‘maintenance and repair’.

The definition of construction work has not changed.

Planned or routine maintenance, or work where individual components are removed and replaced, or lubrication and inspection undertaken, is not CDM work.

The definition refers to work on the ‘structure’ and CDM 2015 is all about construction ‘projects’ which have a start and finish and involve the use of construction tools and construction equipment.

Risk assess each project against the definition, and consider the following:

  • Does the work involve construction techniques, tools and knowledge?
  • Does the work involve breaking into the structure?
  • Does the work fall within the scope of a project with a start and finish?

If the answer to all of the above questions is yes, the project is likely to constitute CDM work.

For buildings which contain asbestos, fragile surfaces and unknown risks, a risk assessment would likely conclude that the CDM 2015 process should be followed.

Competency of contractors

Competency has always been a CDM cornerstone.

The new regulations replaced this with a requirement to consider skills, knowledge, experience and organisational capability when engaging the services of others.

Client responsibilities for engaging those with the correct skills, knowledge and experience are now more critical than ever, and the penalties for not complying are greater than before.

“The penalties for not complying are greater than before”

At the heart of the regulations is ensuring those who create the risk are responsible for managing it.

If contractors and designers cannot show they are working to meet the new standards, clients will choose those who can, so this makes good business sense too.

Co-ordinator to consultant

The new requirements are very clear: the CDM co-ordinator no longer exists.

Individual duty-holders must step up and develop the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to fulfil their defined responsibilities. They should all be able to make risk-based choices as part of what they do, and with each decision made.

CDM co-ordinators have a wealth of knowledge, but must now adapt their approach to train, guide and support duty-holders, not do the work for them. Duty-holders cannot subcontract their responsibilities.

CDM 2015 also applies to domestic work where the homeowner will live in the completed project.

“CDM co-ordinators have a wealth of knowledge, but must now adapt their approach to train, guide and support duty-holders, not do the work for them”

Until solicitors start asking for health and safety files when domestic property is bought and sold, I believe this sector will continue to lag behind – putting a generation of workers at risk of harm and long-term ill health.

Some project teams remain unsure as to what should be included and clients can help by clearly communicating how they would like the information provided.

There has been a reluctance to provide ‘as built’ drawings, and files are still not being created during the work, which is definitely the best way to collate it.

Clients should be requesting regular updates to determine whether the file is progressing as expected.

Standards improving

I am finding that commercial clients who have accepted the new processes and acted upon the new regulations feel more in control. Roles and responsibilities have greater clarity and the regulations are more prescriptive, meaning everyone has direct duties to fulfil, which they like.

However, there are some trades which are carrying on as they did before, and homeowners are currently totally unaware of the regulations.

Health issues are being pushed to the fore, with brooms being replaced by vacuum cleaners and designers challenged to eliminate risks as early as they can.

On the whole, informed project teams are definitely stepping up and I believe standards have improved.

The CITB has some great guidance on its website and industry sectors are supporting their trades in a productive manner.

Louise Hosking is a director at Hosking Associates

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