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INCREASING CDM COORDINATOR INFLUENCE

CDM Coordinator role is not to second guess design judgements

In recent months Philip Poynter has argued for a return to basics when considering CDM 2007 duties. He has examined roles of Coordinator, Designer and Client.

This month he looks at how the impact and influence of the Coordinator (CDM-C) function might be increased.

 

The best friend of the construction client?

When the CDM 2007 Regulations were first rolled out the Coordinator (CDM-C) was heralded as new ‘best friend’ to the construction client. A suggestion that was always likely to struggle in the face of traditional project relationships where, if the client has a best friend, it is usually the architect or other lead designer.

So why was it thought the CDM-C role should and could fill such a key position in relation to the project client?

Client comfort blanket and insurance policy?

Under CDM 2007 the client faced the prospect of more onerous responsibilities for construction project safety and would need a CDM-C to navigate a path through the practical and legal minefield. The CDM-C was to be the ‘comfort blanket’ and ‘insurance policy’ for a worried client.

The reality is that government played down changes to the client duty and continued to focus primarily on contractors and sites rather than clients and boardrooms. Why therefore should construction clients lose too much sleep over CDM duties when so few clients were engaged or ‘inspected’ by HSE let alone prosecuted?

Rather than becoming the client’s best friend the CDM-C is seen by many as a marginalised role lacking influence and failing to add real value.

Way forward for increasing CDM-C influence

A review of CDM 2007 is currently in progress. Assuming the role remains what can be done to shift the CDM-C function into a more positive position within construction project risk management? 

The answer – a modest goal – is to start by become a better friend to project designers rather than competing with designers for client affection! A competition the CDM-C will always lose.

Designers are increasingly likely to face investigation and litigation when things go wrong on construction projects. Perhaps more so than the client.

A proactive, involved and helpful CDM-C can provide greater protection for designers without usurping their role. By securing greater status in the eyes of the design community the CDM-C importance to the client will increase.

Start with a clear understanding of how the CDM-C can assist designers

The starting point is a clear understanding of the CDM-C role in relation to designers and thereafter engaging designers in a positive and cooperative way.

The CDM-C has thee main responsibilities in respect of designers:

Pre-construction information: the CDM-C should aim for excellence in assembling the PCI in a form and with content that designers find useful. The ACOP provides a good starting point to be infomed by talking with designers and finding out what they find useful;

Coordination and cooperation: making and implementing sensible arrangements for coordination of H&S issues during planning and preparation will be welcomed if they enable designers to get with the job of design; and

Designer compliance: the CDM-C must take all reasonable steps to ensure that designers comply with the duty to avoid risk during design preparation. Such involvement in relation to designer risk avoidance duties is more problematic.

The CDM-C has tended to adopt two opposite positions, either second guessing design decisions or doing nothing. 

Second guessing design judgements adds no value

What is NOT required is second guessing of design decisions. The CDM-C role is about coordination not design.

What IS required of the CDM-C is a systematic consideration of how designers on the project go about complying with their duties to avoid foreseeable risk etc.

Designers must have a credible process for avoiding risk and passing on information on significant risks that remain. This CDM-C ‘check’ needs to be carried out in a spirit of cooperation and helpfulness.

There is no one best way for designers to comply with their risk avoidance duties. The CDM-C should look for sound evidence of a compliant process and not a compliant design.

When the CDM-C has ticked the ‘Designer Compliance’ box it provides protection for both designers and clients. If carried out in a spirit of openness and learning it should identify improvements to designer risk avoidance processes and outcomes.

Remember, the CDM 2007 ACOP states that the CDM-C :” is not required to approve or check designs, although they have to be satisfied that the design process addresses the need to eliminate hazards and control risks

Conclusion

The CDM-C is a function not a person. At present this function is not highly regarded by other members of the project team.

Understanding what the function involves vis-à-vis designers and delivering a quality service will increase CDM-C added value and influence in the eyes of designer and client alike.

The next step is to repeat the process with contractors. The subject for a future article!

………….END………….

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