An interview with Ms Heather Bryant, HSE Chief Inspector of Construction, has been published online by Health and Safety at Work magazine.
A selection of extracts from the interview are reproduced below:
Revised CDM Regulations
“We recognise that people want to know about things early but it’s also right to get the right things lined up before we launch a regulation. So it would be wrong to launch a revised set of regs without the support of the necessary industry guidance. The HSE will launch the legal guidance, clearly, but it’s important to have more than that. We also need the time to have a full 12-week consultation.”
“There was a lot of feedback on the coordinator role when we did the review and it basically said there were some good coordinators and there were some where value was not being added in the way the role was anticipated to do.
So there will still be a requirement to coordinate and there will still be a requirement to fulfil duties and responsibilities, but the need for a title CDM coordinator is no longer there.
We are looking for a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities between the client, the principal contractor and the principal designer, so you can get that cooperation and coordination from the very planning stage of a project right the way through to completion, whereas the CDM coordinator landed in the middle of it.
Many CDM coordinators, though they started off with that name, are actually already integrated into projects so they are already doing what we think CDM will drive others to do. We aren’t starting from scratch.”
“The competence requirements in CDM didn’t help in the way we hoped and it’s a very deliberate step to take it back to the bare bones of information, instruction and training and with supervision — though supervision isn’t the be-all and end-all.
We see it as an opportunity to address that issue, to simplify it and to make sure that everybody understands what is needed and to ask industry to step up to the mark. I’m confident there’s a groundswell of understanding and support to give us every chance of making it happen this time.”
“There are a number of schemes and some of them are very good and some of them are not very good,” she observes. Some, to be blunt, make money without adding value.
We have concerns that some card schemes only demonstrate that somebody knew something on a particular day. It doesn’t mean that the next day they remember that or the week after. It may be they are doing a number of different things on the site in which case what they learned at one stage is not going to necessarily see them through.
It is not for HSE to say ‘you must do X Y and Z and that will mean your workforce is competent’… We are happy to help but it’s for the leadership of the industry to take the bull by the horns and decide what’s needed. But clearly the systems at the moment there’s too many of them and they aren’t working as well as anybody would wish.”
“Health accounts for more days lost than safety … Some people think health is sorting something out when it’s gone wrong. We are asking companies to control the risks before they become the health problems of the future.”
“We will be going back to basics on CoSHH [Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations] and the hierarchy of control because we feel that CoSHH has perhaps lost its way in the construction industry. We will take a firmer line in inspection and enforcement. Why give someone a facemask when you could control the dust by wet cutting or on-tool extraction? The controls are out there we expect them to be used now, not just talked about.
“We are asking people to step up to the challenge of having a dust free site. One large company said their ambition is to ‘bin the broom’ and that would be good for more organisations. Health will be at the front of our inspectors’ minds and we will be challenging organisations to think ‘health first’.
“In CDM there is a role for designers, architects will have a role to play. If you can get it right at that stage (design) you won’t have the problems further along. We have to push that. I think we are seeing a sea change in people’s appetite to move forward on this. It won’t be an easy ride but if we get it right we’ll see an improvement in health in future.”
Fee for Intervention
“They (HSE Inspectors) are conscious that this now has a cost with the industry, but people have the opportunity to put their houses in order before we come along.
The conversations I have had with industry stakeholders and the bigger organisations it’s not turning out to be such an issue as people thought it might be. They can see there is a fairness to it and a common sense to it and I think the number of disputes raised show it.
There are only about 10 which have been raised to a dispute level where there is still a disagreement and that’s out of thousands of invoices.
There is a degree of working out who is responsible but I feel we have a good and consistent process. We don’t always get it right and that’s why there is a query process. But we have processes to ensure consistency, we have peer reviews across our teams to make sure people have the opportunity to say “I have this complicated one, what do I do about it?” I’m confident we are getting it right in the vast majority of cases.”
Small firms and refurbishment
“There’s no doubt there are differences across the sector. Sadly, if you combine small firms and refurbishment they account for 70% of the fatalities and the vast majority of our concerns over poor standards. We put 70% of our resources into reaching smaller firms, particularly those with under 15 people.
What we are trying to do is make sure smaller firms know how to access information so they have awareness and understanding of how to do things correctly. That’s the primary thing. Where we find people have deliberately put their workers at risk, we will come down with the full force of the law.
Again we are working with the trade associations and with CONIAC through some of the larger organisations to say you have a responsibility, you have a role to play and we would like you to work with us in sharing your expertise down the supply chain.”