With new Construction (Design and Management) Regulations coming into force this month, Cedrec’s Gareth Billinghurst asks what’s next for building site safety.

Occupational lung disease is the culprit behind around 13,000 deaths a year, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). This can be caused by working with various building materials, putting those in the construction industry at risk.

It is clear that the current level of dust and emission-related illness is far too high, necessitating the need to update assessments and management across the board. This is particularly important for smaller sites, where constraints on resources, finances and time all have a considerable price tag.

Looking ahead to the changes in CDM Regulations, for some, the most welcome news will be the replacement of CDM co-ordinators with principal designers. There has been an outcry from many sources in the industry that this role simply creates unnecessary cost to construction projects, and ultimately adds another unwanted expense to an already expensive building process.

So if the aim is to reduce unnecessary construction site costs, does this mean buildings will be cheaper? It’s impossible to say, but the responsibility to keep a site safe will always remain paramount – it's just going to be shared between everyone, from designer to principal contractor.

My hope is that the brightest and best CDM co-ordinators will be retained and used to help those with responsibility quickly find their feet. After all, construction sites are always complicated and dangerous places to manage, with an abundance of different contractors, trades and skills, so anything that ensures safety functions are carried out to a high level of competency has to be welcomed.

It is entirely possible that the main reason for these changes is because of the new requirement for applying CDM to smaller construction work – like domestic projects and those that fall below the F10 notification. Such projects would struggle financially if they had to pay for a dedicated CDM co-ordinator to manage the safety of their development.

Construction sites consistently have the highest fatality rates of workplaces across the UK, so the correct guidance, support and interventions by the HSE must be in place to ensure that CDM works across the whole sector. Only time will tell if CDM co-ordinators are being made scapegoats simply for the ‘sin' of being seen as a construction industry overhead.

All we can hope is that the level of safety we currently enjoy is maintained or improved in light of the new changes.

Gareth Billinghurst is director and senior auditor at online safety legislation expert Cedrec.

Image courtesy of Avesun/Shutterstock.