HSE confirms approach to new construction site safety regulations

Out-Law News | 05 Sep 2014 | 10:44 am | 2 min. read

Changes to the regulations governing safety at construction sites are set to come into force in April 2015 after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received "a good, if not unanimous, degree of support for most proposals".

Responding to its consultation on draft regulations to replace the 2007 Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) Regulations (21-page / 99KB PDF), the HSE confirmed that it would go ahead with plans to replace the role of CDM coordinator with a 'principal designer' role. Some of the other provisions included in the draft from March, including a proposal to replace the existing approved code of practice (ACoP) with guidance and replacing the existing requirement for individual competence with a more general "appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision" requirement, would be revised, it said.

"It appears that rear-guard action to preserve the CDM coordinator role has been lost but it still remains to be seen whether what will replace it will make things better or worse," said health and safety expert Sean Elson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "We are waiting with interest to see the related guidance that the HSE intends to publish, especially as the timetable remains fixed to introduction of the new regulations in April 2015."

The CDM coordinator is responsible for implementing the requirements of the CDM Regulations on a construction site. The HSE's proposal to instead assign this responsibility to the 'principal designer' within the project team was supported by 81% of consultation respondents that did not identify as CDM coordinators, the regulator said.

The new regulations implement some of the requirements of the EU's Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites (TMCS) Directive. They stipulate minimum standards of health, safety and welfare provisions during the construction phase of a project, and require risks to be planned for and managed from the design concept onwards.

The HSE has said that its proposed changes would improve worker protection while at the same time delivering cost and administrative savings to businesses. They include a shortening and structural simplification of the regulations themselves, and replace detailed and prescriptive requirements for individual and corporate competence with a more generic requirement for those appointing others to carry out construction work to ensure that they have received "appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision to allow them to work safely". The HSE has said that this new requirement will be "revisited to improve clarity" following industry feedback, but remains of the view that the existing competence provisions should be replaced.

Respondents were generally supportive of a new requirement for a written health and safety plan for all projects at the construction phase, although there were some concerns about the impact of this on small projects. They generally did not support the proposal to replace the ACoP with guidance, as the formal legal status of the former made it more authoritative. The HSE has agreed that a case has been made to instead develop a shorter, "signposting ACoP, complemented by the HSE and joint HSE-industry guidance".

The HSE has also confirmed that transitional provisions in the draft regulations will be rewritten to improve flexibility, following further discussions with the industry. Provisions relating to client duties will also be revised to improve clarity, particularly in relation to domestic clients who would be covered by the regime for the first time. However, the "broad approach" would remain unchanged, HSE said.

According to the response, around 65% of the 1,400 responses to the consultation were received from either CDM coordinators, or from people in the entertainments sector. These responses were "effectively campaigns" and not representative of the views of the construction industry as a whole, HSE said. In response to concerns raised by the entertainments industry on the application of the new regulations to temporary structures and minor works, HSE published an open letter last month confirming its commitment to a "proportionate" approach to managing risks within the sector.