CLIENTS will face a raft of new responsibilities on construction sites under planned changes to the CDM regulations revealed last week.
The Health and Safety Executive's long-awaited consultation document on a new set of draft regulations says that on notifiable projects - longer than 30 days or 500 man-days - clients must appoint competent project 'co-ordinators', put in place a detailed construction plan and provide welfare facilities on site.
The HSE states: 'The arrangements adopted by most clients do not ensure competence - instead they have tended to become bureaucratic form-filling exercises.'
Construction Confederation health and safety director Andy Sneddon, who helped steer the new rules on industry safety advisory body Coniac, said: 'The thing about the revised regulations is that there is a shift in the centre of gravity towards the client.
'The client has responsibility for overall arrangements for the project - it is obligated to do the right things.
'If there was a fatality because the client appointed a bad co-ordinator or because it failed to follow the co-ordinator's advice, then the client would be prosecuted.'
He said: 'There is a welfare and conditions duty on the client which is new - if the job starts and there are no proper loos on the site, then the client could also suffer.'
The HSE does not expect occasional clients to become experts in construction health and safety, but is looking to abolish the role of planning supervisors where they act as a device for clients to 'absolve themselves of their legal obligations' The document states: 'The aim is to prevent anyone retaining control while avoiding responsibility.'
Chris Morley, director of the Construction Clients Group, said: 'We broadly support these proposals.We welcome the references to the importance of the client role alongside the business case for CDM.'
The new role of co-ordinator - guiding clients, contractors and designers in producing safer sites - will replace planning supervisors, who have been seen as a scapegoat for CDM bureaucracy rather than a natural part of the construction team.
Stephen Wright, the HSE's head of construction policy, said: 'The co-ordinator role is very similar to the independent client advisers Sir John Egan put forward in Accelerating Change. The role could be fulfilled by project managers and it could be carried out by several people doing different parts of the job depending on the size of the project.
'Frankly it doesn't matter how it is done, as long as it is done.'
Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, said: 'We are making real progress in getting CDM to reflect the Rethinking Construction approach.
It looks like health and safety will be managed by an integrated team instead of a series of individuals appointed at set times.'
The rules will also be tightened up for designers, who have been criticised for their lack of awareness of CDM responsibilities.
They will have to provide project-specific information on risk rather than generic information - 'sometimes merely statements of the obvious'according to the HSE.
The HSE states: 'We want designers to focus on how their decisions are likely to affect those constructing, maintaining, using or demolishing their structures.'
The industry and the HSE considered changing the name of the CDM regulations to the Construction Regulations before deciding to keep the original.
Currently companies can face unlimited fines in a crown court or £20,000 in a magistrates' court if they flout the rules.
The industry has until July to respond to the document.
If no amendments are needed, the new regulations should come into force in October 2006.
The £3 billion bill of complying with new CDM rules
THE COST of putting the new CDM regulations into force could reach almost £3 billion over the next 10 years.
The Health and Safety Executive's regulatory impact assessment, published with the draft regulations, says that implementation costs could total between £1 billion and £2.8 billion.
Stephen Wright, the HSE's head of construction policy, said: 'These are our estimates, but we are making some judgements on a lack of hard data so it is up to the industry to tell us how realistic the figures are.'
The figures - based on between 60 and 70 per cent compliance - say that the additional responsibilities for contractors to plan, manage and monitor their work could cost between £300 million and £900 million.
For designers, CDM training and providing more information on project-specific risk may cost £180 million.
And the new role of the co-ordinator on notifiable projects - sharing information, checking competence and securing worker involvement - is estimated at between £220 million and £450 million.
Mr Wright said: 'There will be some upfront costs, but when you take into account the whole project there will be definite long-term savings.'
Key aims of the CDM review:
Simplifying the regulations to improve clarity - making it easier for duty holders to know what is expected of them
Maximising flexibility to fit with the vast range of contractual arrangements
Putting the focus on planning and management - emphasising active management rather than bureaucracy
Encouraging more integration. between designers and contractors
Simplifying competence assessment for organisations and individuals to help raise standards and reduce bureaucracy