CDM 2015 poorly embedded after two years, survey reveals


23rd May 2017

As reported by Health and Safety at work online, the results of the Health and Safety at Work and Construction Manager survey on CDM 2015 have shown that the changes introduced are struggling to take root, while the working methods established under CDM 2007 have proved highly resilient.

They also show that attempts to curb the culture of accreditations and pre-qualifications have had little effect, and that the revisions have done little to improve the safety culture on smaller sites or domestic projects.

The 310 respondents to the survey had a bias towards contractors and safety professionals, with few architects, engineers or clients participating. But respondents did have extensive experience of CDM 2015, with 73% having worked on more than ten projects.

Looking at the regulations overall, less than half (46%) of the respondents rated compliance with CDM 2015 as good or excellent, compared to the 53% who thought that about CDM 2007.

CDM 2015 abolished the role of the CDM co-ordinator, often a specialised safety consultant, in favour of locating responsibility for pre-construction safety with the principal designer.

But the survey showed that only a minority of designers – architects and engineers – take on the role directly, although more fulfil their responsibilities by hiring “CDM advisers”, consultants who had previously taken on the role of CDM co-ordinators.

Of the sample, 46% said that the architect “never” took on the role, and only 12% thought that architects fulfilled the role “most of the time”.

However, a CDM adviser acting in the name of the architect was more likely, with 26% of the sample coming across it “most of the time”. CDM advisers taking a slightly less hands-on role where they only advised principal designers was viewed by another 19% as happening “most of the time”.

As for lead engineers in the principal designer role, 74% of respondents said they’d never met one, and only 4% said it was a frequent occurrence.

As for the working practices of firms in the role, only one in four respondents (24.5%) thought that principal designers were following the CDM 2015 rules, such as co-ordinating other designers and subcontractors on safety issues.

A slightly larger group (28%) thought that CDM 2007 procedures were being applied on current projects, and 39% thought that aspects of both regimes were used in practice.

When asked to submit comments, several respondents complained that CDM 2015 had increased costs on projects. This was because fees were often paid to two CDM advisers, hired by the design team and the client, rather than one CDM co-ordinator.

Despite the attempt to curb the culture of safety accreditations and pre-qualifications, 61% found that there had been little difference in expectations from clients and main contractors.

Another 11% thought that the role of accreditation providers such as CHAS or Safe-T-Cert had actually increased, while only 28% thought that it had diminished.

Improving the safety culture on smaller sites – which account for the majority of construction fatalities – had also been a goal of the 2015 revisions. But 59.5% judged that there had been no improvement, compared to 20.5% who thought there had been an improvement, and 20% who didn’t know.

On CDM 2015’s impact on projects in the domestic sector, where only those with experience of such projects responded, 62% suggested there had been little impact, although 38% thought there had been a positive effect.

Commenting on the results, Paul Reeve, executive director of the Electrical Contractors’ Association, said:  “If you look at the overall response, there’s a real ambivalence about it. It hasn’t led to a step change or resolved the issues in CDM 2007.

“In terms of the principal designer, it seems to be business as usual. Around a quarter have embraced the ethos – which is an improvement, but not a massive difference. Three quarters are behaving in the way they did previously, by pulling in consultants from the safety arena.”

Read the full results here

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