CDM 2007 and Non-Notifiable Projects – What Do We Need To Be Doing?

The Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations apply to all construction projects – not just those which are HSE notifiable. Here’s how to keep safe and stay within the law. ‘Construction projects’ is a wide ranging term. It includes not just the things you might expect such as bricklaying, demolition and ground works, but also painting and decorating, refurbishment works and maintenance.Within that term there are notifiable projects – those which have a construction period of more than 30 days or involve more than 500 person days – and non-notifiable projects, which last for 30 days or less and do not require the HSE to be alerted, or for the client to appoint a CDM Co-ordinator or a Principal Contractor. CDM, however, still applies and in many ways these types of contracts, where there isn’t one individual specifically employed to co-ordinate CDM issues, are the trickiest to manage. There’ll still be a client, possibly a designer and certainly a number of contractors and it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that CDM regulations are followed.Let’s begin with the client, the person who actually commissions the construction project.As a general principle it’s the client’s responsibility to engage competent contractors who are able to comply with health and safety requirements, provide sufficient information about health and safety and ensure that adequate health and safety management arrangements and welfare facilities are in place. These duties must be maintained for the duration of the project. The client also needs to lead the project team in setting timescales and must ensure adequate preparation and planning time has been allowed. A proper plan would include a clear understanding of what the work is and why it’s happening; who’s doing the work; what they’ll be doing; how long it will take. The client needs to tell their staff what hazards will be created and how they can be avoided. They need to be aware of what risk assessments and method statements will be needed; how contractors will be monitored and problems addressed. All too often clients want contractors to get on and off site as quickly as possible to minimise disruption, but they really need to prepare and plan properly.Clients need to allow adequate time for the job, investigate the available information and communicate properly. Too many clients rely on the contractor ‘finding out as he goes along’. Not only is this contrary to the duties under CDM 2007 it is also inherently unsafe. They also fail to consider the likelihood of asbestos materials being present and don’t check asbestos registers or conduct surveys. Before every project, clients should create a checklist of information. This could include details on hazardous substances or fragile materials on the site, operation and maintenance manuals and detailed drawings, any relevant risk assessments and fire safety arrangements. Other information would include details of where existing services are located, what equipment will be isolated (and who will that affect) and who to talk to about insurance and security. Inevitably, good record keeping is a pre-requisite to all of the above.As mentioned earlier, the client must appoint competent contractors. A comprehensive contractor competency assessment scheme is essential for all organisations who engage with contractors. This will include; assessment procedures for the Twelve Core Competencies referred to in CDM 2007; acceptance of third party accreditation schemes e.g. CHAS, SSIP’s, Construction Line and others; assessment procedures for the Stage 2 part of competency; review of insurances; expectation that a contractor will have a CSCS card scheme in place; evidence of up to date training and experience in similar locations; references and task specific risk assessments.Now let’s move on to the designer.On small projects, designers often won’t recognise CDM as being important to them, but they still have many duties. They need to eliminate hazards as far as possible, reduce risks where elimination isn’t achievable and provide information on those risks. They must consider how the building will be cleaned and maintained and, most importantly, design workplaces so that they meet the requirements of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. In practical terms, designers need to plan properly, no matter how short the project, and research the existing structure and how the project will affect its operation. They must not assume that a small job automatically carries a low risk of health and safety. Designers need to know what’s being done, when and by whom. They need to ensure that the best methods and techniques are being used and that all the relevant information is communicated to others. Above all, designers need to consider the health and safety implication of their designs. They have a duty to consider the health and safety of construction workers when developing their designs. Ease of cleaning and maintenance shouldn’t be sacrificed to a beautiful design, even if such work will only be undertaken rarely.Designers need to have a thorough understanding of workplace law and the Work at Height Regulations. Turning to the contractor… Their duties are probably the most numerous and varied. Not only do they have to plan, manage and monitor construction work so that it is done safely and without risk to health but they also have to provide information and training to the workforce and co-operate with others involved in a construction project. In addition they should inform the client if they believe them to be unaware of their CDM duties and not start work if they believe the project should be notifiable and this hasn’t been done.For their own work, they must produce a health and safety plan, arrange welfare facilities, protect the public and appoint competent sub-contractors. This applies even on short jobs, where there is a tendency to book sub contractors purely on price without checking their competency or health and safety knowledge. Everyone, contractor and sub alike, needs to be aware of their limitations and where they lack experience. Contractors need to have a simple review process in place for asking their sub contractors about their health and safety knowledge. Planning for the job itself is also essential.Unsurprisingly, contractors will often endeavour to please the client by starting on site as soon as possible. As a result, they’re often ill-prepared and take short cuts or improvise to get round obstacles which they could have planned for. Contractors need to have a simple pre-start plan available which includes much of the following; project details such as type of work, where, when; client details, names and contacts; what works are being carried out and by whom and how many people are needed; what equipment and welfare provision is needed; what hazards there are (including fire and asbestos) and what’s in place to deal with the hazards; site access. Naturally, the most important reason for following CDM regulations is to keep everyone involved safe, but don’t think that just because the project isn’t HSE notifiable it’ll fly under the radar.Local authority Environmental Health Officers have the power to enforce CDM in most retail, commercial and hospitality premises where the work is being undertaken as part and parcel of the ongoing business. More and more EHOs are questioning the management of refurbishment and repairs projects as part of their normal enforcement duties. In a recent example, a major retailer commissioned a signage company to take down and re-install the external signage, including all electrical supplies.The project was to last ten days and the signs company had done it before. They carried out the works but their health and safety procedures consisted of turning up and signing in. There were no safe working practices for working at height, no procedures for isolating the electrics and no proper protection for the passing public. There was, for example, a tower scaffold in the bus lane. Two operatives were even seen leaping from the tower on to the canopy over the entrance with no consideration of the fragile surface. Unsurprisingly, The EHO turned up and stopped the works continuing until proper procedures were in place. As soon as the EHO left site work restarted – although they did move the tower around the corner – and lo and behold the EHO came back and instigated an investigation.The client is being investigated on a number of counts – failure to apply CDM to a non-notifiable project, failure to appoint competent contractors, failure to ensure health and safety was managed during the works, unsafe systems for electrical isolation, etc. The contractor, meanwhile is being investigated for lack of risk assessments, no safe system of work, work at height breaches, electrical safety breaches and failing to protect the public. If only the principles outlined above had been followed…In summary, CDM is as important for non-notifiable projects as notifiable ones. The processes are the same and the time spent in thinking through the works, hazards and risks associated with a non-notifiable project will be repaid in terms of quality, safety, budget accuracy and programme.

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