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    CDM PRINCIPAL DESIGNER FUNCTION MISUNDERSTOOD?

    Consultants claim CDM 2015 design risk management has ‘gone backwards’

    On 6th September 2018 the Liverpool Business News published comments by Alan Robson of Liverpool-based consultancy Project Four who claims that construction project design risk management has ‘gone backwards’ under the CDM Regulations 2015.

    In the article Alan argues that creation of the Principal Designer (PD) role has “created more, not less, confusion about construction health and safety planning and co-ordination.” He elaborates as follows:

    “As an industry, for many years we have too often failed to deliver positive and proactive design risk management and demonstrating the principle of prevention – with the onus often pushed from the design stage for contractors to deal with.

    CDM 2015 was intended to address this but that has not happened in practice. First thing to say about the Principal Designer role is that his or her primary function is not design – it is a coordination role.

    However, some people also believe it directly replaces the old CDM coordinator role – it doesn’t. Following the introduction of the new regulations there was a panic among CDM and safety professionals about what would happen to their businesses and they set themselves up as Principal Designers – often they weren’t qualified to take it on.”

    Too often as health and safety professionals we have seen the role done badly – and that is a problem because it means people are being put at risk, either at pre-construction, construction or post-handover completion.

    Our architect/designer clients are the first to admit that they are not necessarily best placed to take it on. Despite having up to eight years of training, very little of it will have been on CDM.

    The value and effectiveness of planning supervisors and CDM coordinators were de-valued, I believe, because the large multi-disciplinary practices thought they could minimise costs by providing a dual role via either the quantity surveyor or project manager.

    That role has often then become a bureaucratic one focused on box-ticking rather than what it should be – a proactive exercise in design risk management, that can add value from start to completion, to handover and operation.

    Too many clients are adopting a position of ignorance and it means the industry has gone backwards.”

    Comment

    In June 2016 we reported the findings of our reader surveys concerning the new CDM Regulations 2015 which included their views on how the  new PD function was working.

    The subsequent anecdotal evidence is that many involved with CDM 2015 share the view of Alan Robson that the PD function is not working well and by implication the guidance published by HSE and the industry is not having the desired effect.

    Is it now time for HSE and industry bodies to review the operation of CDM 2015, test the anecdotal evidence and if necessary provide further advice and clarification on the Principal Designer function under 2015?

    Meanwhile, our brief summary of the PD function and other posts may be helpful.

     

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