SWEEPING changes to construction regulations could led to a wave of enforcement action against unwitting clients and contractors, a leading health-and-safety expert has warned.
The new Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 have dropped the key CDM co-ordinator role and split the duties between the client and a new role of principal designer on projects involving more than one contractor.
The new rules, which the Health and Safety Executive says could save the industry around £30m per year, came into effect on April 6.
But Chris Lawson, regional manager for national construction health and safety specialists Steel River Consultants, fears the short-term effect could place a greater – and potentially costly – burden on clients and designers who fall foul of enforcement action.
The new regulations make clients accountable for their health and safety decisions and the influence they have on projects. The new principal designer role will have responsibility for communicating with project teams, identifying and ameliorating risks and making sure other designers in the team comply with all regulatory requirements.
The role also assumes liability for managing pre-construction health and safety and ensuring all other designers fulfil their duties and prepare a health and safety file.
Chris explained: “In the short term, the changes are likely to result in more designers, clients and small contractors being subject to enforcement action as a result of a failure to fulfil their regulatory duties due to lack of health and safety skills, knowledge, experience and training, if they take on these roles without appropriate advise and adequate insurance.”
And he warned: “There is likely to be a commensurate increase in the number of recorded injuries as a result.”
Since the CDM regulations were introduced there has been a marked fall in the number of industrial accidents.
Chris said: “These changes may fail to meet the Health and Safety Executive’s objective of targeting small contracts, where a large number of incidents occur, as a result of an increase in the notification threshold. The new notification threshold is now 30 days and 20 workers working simultaneously at any one time, or 500 person days and as result of clear guidance to support the determination of supplier competence.
“There will be increased ambiguity, due to the removal of competence guidelines and the lack of an approved code of practice.”
The regulations have also been extended to domestic projects. This imposes the client duties on the first appointed professional i.e. designer or contractor, which has not been widely publicised and is not readily recognised by smaller designers and contractors working in this sector.