Compliance challenges in the construction industry

27 September, 2013
Pat Perry

It's been extremely pleasing to see the continuous improvement of the construction sector over recent months and to see the signs of economic improvement, increased order books and good business performance within the sector.

Improved business opportunities bring increased responsibilities and none more so than in regulatory compliance, especially health and safety.

The construction sector will be facing many challenges throughout 2014, including:-

  • New CDM Regulations
  • Increased use of fee for intervention by HSE
  • Increased requirements for environmental performance, sustainability improvements in design, procurement and end use
  • Skills shortages
  • Language barriers as the workforce comes increasingly from Eastern Europe

So, taking each one in turn, what might we need to know?

New CDM Regulations 2014

The UK has to come in to line with the general interpretation of the EU Directive and this means that our new Regulations will reflect other EU Countries. As at the time of writing this article, the consultation document has not been issued, we can only put forward our best guess and the best guess is to look at Ireland and how they have implemented the Directive.

The role of the CDM Co-ordinator will change. Not a bad thing as rarely does the current role bring any real value to a project.

Designers will become more responsible for health and safety in design - the Project Design Supervisor will be established and this is likely to be someone from within the design team. Once the project progresses to site the "management baton" for health and safety will pass to the Project Supervisor for the Construction Stage. This duty holder is likely to be the Principal Contractor as there are more statutory duties placed on the role than in the current UK role.

Whatever the detail of the new Regulations, the industry will face a real challenge to embrace yet another set of changes to the management of health and safety in construction.

Increased Use of Fee for Intervention

Life will only get more challenging for all businesses but in particular, construction companies, over the coming years as our Regulators gear up more and more for charging those who are at fault i.e. fail to comply with the law.

The construction industry has already embraced fee for intervention and the revenue generated by HSE for both informal and formal actions and advice is considerable.

The challenge to the industry is to invest sufficiently in getting things right on site so that when the inspector calls they find little wrong and nothing to charge for.

Case Study

We had a call from a construction company client MD who said he had just had an HSE inspection. PSN had visited the previous week on a routine site safety audit and had recommended a number of site improvements which he had actioned. The HSE inspectors (there were two) found nothing wrong of any consequence, praised him for his paperwork and records and site standards and gave some verbal advice about stepladders. No fee for intervention. Our MD client was elated!!

A potential HSE "fine" of £1,500 + against a PSN site audit of £400. (Value for money indeed!!!).

Environmental Performance

The "green" agenda is coming back on to the actions list. Businesses will need to consider energy usage, water usage, waste, and recycling and re-use initiatives. Construction sites will need to operate with environmental efficiencies in mind but also, so will buildings and structures need to be environmentally efficient. Clients will increasingly be looking to secure savings on construction costs and operating costs and the industry will have to embrace new technologies in order to deliver those savings eg. Renewable energy schemes will be an integral part of all new building design.

Skills Shortages

Quality suffers if skills are not there. Health and safety suffers if skills are not there. The construction industry will need to attract new recruits via training schemes, apprenticeships. Health and safety standards should be trained in from day one. More women may join the construction sector - a definite challenge for most construction companies!! And they will need to re-evaluate the provision of welfare facilities, the macho culture and the institutional discrimination.

Language Barriers

Workers have to be competent in order to satisfy health and safety laws. Those who do not understand basic English cannot follow basic safety instructions and they therefore risk their own and other's safety. Companies will need to address the cultural and language issues of a diverse workforce and ensure that they provide multi-lingual safety notices and procedures, interpreters, authorised "team leaders" who speak good English.

The above are just some of the challenges to the construction sector. They all interlink and a weakness in any one of them could jeopardise the safety of the construction workforce.

For more information on this or other matters relating to health and safety in the workplace Contact Us.

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