Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) – legislation in construction

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, were introduced in 1994 and were revised in 2007. The original aim of the CDM was to reduce injuries and fatalities in the construction sector by improving the management of health, safety and welfare.

The original 1994 regulations made great strides in putting responsibility for safety where it could most effectively be handled; beginning with design and also ensuring that no one in the supply chain, including clients, could avoid responsibility.  Unfortunately, the impact of the 1994 regulations was diluted by lack of clarity regarding responsibilities, complex drafting and the (somewhat justified) perception that compliance required endless paperwork.

The key aims of the revised CDM 2007 included the proper integration of health and safety into project management and encouraging closer working for those involved, in:

(a)  improving the planning and management of projects from the beginning;

(b)  identifying hazards early on, so that they could be eliminated or reduced at the design or planning stage and so that remaining risks could be properly managed;

(c)  targeting effort where it could do the most good in terms of health and safety; and

(d)  discouraging unnecessary bureaucracy.

It was intended that the above aims would be achieved by:

  • clearly defining the responsibilities of each duty holder (client, designer, CDM coordinator, principal contractor and contractor);
  • placing greater emphasis on good communication;
  • assessing the competence of all duty holders;
  • reducing paperwork by actually placing the focus on planning and management (rather than simply on generating documents to give the impression this had been done);

Additional (HSE commissioned) research was carried out in 2010 (the Löfstedt Report), with the eventual aim of carrying out a further revision of the CDM.  The results were published in April 2012. The two key areas examined were:

  • the extent to which the 2007 revisions met their objectives; and
  • the cost implications of the revisions.

The research results were mixed.  It is clear that there has been a significant financial cost to the construction industry in implementing CDM 2007, but tangible health and safety improvements have been achieved and it is widely accepted that some adverse costs impact is therefore inevitable.  Serious concerns remain, however, in regard to all of the areas previously identified for improvement.

The role of Duty Holders

The requirement for an appointment of duty holders early is not always complied with.  Some clients also continue to believe that responsibilities under CDM 2007 lie either with designers and/or contractors, however, this is incorrect and it is actually clients that have the major role in overseeing the management of health and safety risk from the planning and design stages to construction and handover.

The CDM coordinator is charged with supporting the client in the discharge of his responsibilities and ensuring that there is sufficient co-operation between all parties in managing health and safety risk in the design and construction processes.  It is a consistent complaint that CDM coordinators are neither seen nor heard from sufficiently and that the quality of coordination can be extremely variable and haphazard.  Many firms reported that they were not even given the name of the CDM coordinator.

Designers are not providing sufficient information about aspects of the design of the structure or its maintenance (as they are required to by CDM 2007).

Complaints regarding principal contractors are commonplace; including a lack of pre-construction information (for the purpose of bidding for work) about the state of the site and, in some complex multiple projects, about the difficulty of establishing the principal contractor.  Furthermore, the construction phase plan (which sets out the way in which the principal contractor proposes to manage health and safety risks on site) is not always provided before work is commenced.

The requirement under CDM 2007, that contractors should have a mobilisation period before work starts to enable activities to be organised and minimise health and safety risks, is often not followed.

Improving communication and reducing paperwork

It was an overriding aim of CDM 2007 to improve communication, but there is a widespread view that this has not been achieved and further work must be done by all duty holders to do so.  Feedback also suggests that the volume of paperwork associated with CDM compliance has actually increased rather than diminished; meaning that the burden of bureaucracy represents a serious ongoing area of concern.

Approved Code of Practice (ACoP)

The ACoP provides practical guidance on complying with the duties set out in the CDM 2007 Regulations.

Some respondents to the Löfstedt Report expressed concern over interpretation and implementation, especially in relation to the ACoP.  It was also stated that CDM 2007 (including the ACoP) does not fit naturally with the structure of the modern construction industry.

Conclusion

There are few, if any, obvious conflicts between CDM 2007 and construction contracts, but duty holders have expressed a clear desire for additional guidance on how CDM 2007 should work in practice.

An important finding of the Löfstedt Report is that industry practice has a significant influence on how CDM 2007 is implemented.  As a result, the report provides a clear warning that the current severe economic pressures faced by the construction industry could undo some of the achievements since the CDM Regulations were first introduced.