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Making sense of the new

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The planned overhaul of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) needs to deliver improved safety performance for both small and large businesses without adding to costs.


Some get very excited by the latest developments concerning our health and safety laws. The ‘new’ often comes attached with ‘significant’, which can prevent us from objectively weighing up the true impact of the change or the effectiveness of what went before. Conversely we may dismiss the ‘new’ as the ‘emperor’s new clothes’.

However, this can be too quick a response and not do justice to what may be genuinely different or progressive. When it comes to the proposed revision of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) recently announced by HSE we recognise that the time taken to prepare the consultative proposals has been lengthy. But are the proposed changes another example of those involved in health and safety getting terribly excited about not very much?

Not necessarily. We have strong links with our construction and property sector members who have frequently told us that CDM, since it came into force in 2007, could and should be improved to remove unnecessary bureaucracy and to better define statutory roles. The challenge is for the new CDM regulations to deliver improved safety performance for both small and large businesses without adding to costs. Some of our members view the proposed changes as significant; others see them as an unwelcome departure from the current arrangements and duties; and others welcome some or all of the proposed changes. In addition, some – a small minority possibly – view the changes as low key.

Since the Löfstedt report, occupational safety and health has had to face a simple question – how can regulations be simpler, smarter and more effective? This is where health and safety is really the art of the possible; that is, trying to balance risk and cost - improving health and safety performance while containing, if not reducing, costs.

The proposed changes to CDM are just one example where this balance is being attempted and where we will provide our views. Over the last three years the British Safety Council has played an active role in gathering the views of our members concerning all the major reforms of health and safety and using them together with our own knowledge and experience to inform what we say on your behalf to government and the regulator.

Sometimes our responses have to balance opposing member views. Some have aired their concerns about how the Löfstedt reforms are being implemented. The proposal to remove certain self-employed people from the scope of much health and safety law is a radical development. We are told this change will save money and have little or no impact on health and safety. Others have concerns that this change will have a negative impact.

We do need to weigh up the consequence, for example, of changes to statutory roles on our health and safety performance. We have to do that in a measured way, balancing the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’. Any concerns we have must be evidence-based and articulated well.

Importantly I have access to the expertise and knowledge of you, our members, and the experience the British Safety Council has built up over its lifetime. It is to you that I look to inform what we have to say to government. Government and HSE listen to the evidence we provide recognising the economic and social contribution our members make and the expertise you have in effectively managing business risks.

Alex Botha is chief executive of the British Safety Council

Follow Alex on Twitter: @Alexbotha1

 

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