The HSE is planning a partial reversal of its plan to abandon the Approved Code of Practice when it implements the CDM Regulations 2015, and now intends to publish a slimline version to accompany the new regs.
The HSE had planned to remove the ACOP, which gives practical advice on implementing CDM 2007, in favour of industry-written guidance. This plan was included in the consultation documents published on 1 April.
But an HSE board paper dated 13 August describing the outcomes of that consultation, makes it clear that the HSE is now proposing to produce a short “signposting” version of the ACOP.
The switch seems to be partly in response to support for the ACOP in the consultation, and partly out of acknowledgment of industry fears that the inter-linked pieces of guidance might not be written in time.
According to paragraph 31 in the paper: “The existing ACOP will fall by default when CDM 2015 revokes CDM 2007. This would, in any case, lead to an interim period when the revised Regulations are supported by HSE and industry guidance alone. HSE believes, however, that a case has been made to develop a new, shorter signposting ACOP, complemented by the HSE and joint HSE-industry guidance and therefore seeks the agreement of the Board for this work to proceed in 2015.”
The document reveals that only 33% of respondents to the consultation supported the removal of the ACOP, and that criticism of the plan came from both individual respondents and representative bodies, a fact the HSE seems to have ascribed weight to.
Chris Chapman, head of CDM at Bristol-based health and safety advisory company Building Safety Group, said the new plan would be welcomed by the industry.
He said: “People like the ACOPs, they don’t read like the regulations do, they drop the ‘legalese’ and speak in plain English. The guidance helps you out on what you should be doing in terms of management systems, and gives you examples of where a particular regulation comes into effect. So when the HSE was talking about a ‘raft of targeted guidance’ instead, it seemed a backward step.”
Although the paper is essentially a proposal to the HSE board and its suggestions could be rejected, Chapman noted that the clock was ticking towards implementation of CDM 2015 next April, and he expected that the HSE would not have time for further deliberation on the ACOP.
The board paper says there were 1,427 responses in total received, with around 500 coming from individual CDM coordinators, but only 25% of this group supported the general ideas between the proposed changes in CDM 2015.
These include removing the formal role of CDM coordinator, and shifting some of their responsibilities on to the Principal Designer. However, overall a small majority of 52% of respondents did support this move.
But the paper acknowledged concerns that “HSE may have over-estimated appetite for designers to engage with the new role – a position that is echoed in comments received from the RIBA, who expressed some concerns about the ability of designers to discharge the coordination function effectively without recourse to third party advice”.
The board paper also outlines the HSE’s latest thinking on the question of health and safety "competency" and its over-zealous interpretation by some clients, contractors and certification schemes.
Chapman explained: “The proposal is a slimmed down version of what we have now. The new ACOP will replace the explicit requirment for competency with a new Regulation 8, which says that any third party scheme has to use the same standards as PAS 91, and that if a higher standard is required, it has to be justifed.”
Oddly, there were 400 responses from the entertainment sector. As the HSE paper explains: “This was prompted by ongoing discussions between HSE and this sector about the legal framework in which it manages risks from construction and dismantling of temporary demountable structures such as grandstands.
“HSE cannot disapply CDM to such work and is not proposing any changes to CDM which specifically bear on the entertainment sector. Nonetheless, HSE has acknowledged the difficulties which the entertainment sector faces in applying CDM to minor construction work and will continue to work with the sector to take a proportionate approach to managing risks within the sector.”