Written evidence submitted by the Association for Project Safety [BSB 116]
BUILDING SAFETY BILL – PRE-LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY
I am writing from the Association for Project Safety [APS], a national body for professionals specialising in design and construction health and safety risk management.
The APS is dedicated to eliminating deaths, reducing injury and tackling ill-health associated with construction. APS aims to improve, and promote excellence in, professional practice in design and construction health and safety risk management, helping everyone manage risk and implement building regulations effectively and proportionately. The association contributes to the national debate on building and infrastructure safety, regulation and legislation, providing training, education and support and member networking opportunities. APS works with other bodies and partners to improve – through good design and throughout the life-cycle of projects and buildings – health and safety for everyone involved in construction and use.
We have considered the draft Building Safety Bill and should like to highlight:
The Association for Project Safety supports the need to ensure everyone working on - and subsequently working and living in - an in-scope building can do so safely and in the knowledge of that safety.
APS has general concerns that the Bill, as drafted, could give rise to a two-tier system with some buildings in-scope and others out. We feel this is likely to give rise to confusion and, over time, to blurring of the edges over what is, and is not, covered. Members have expressed concerns about the ability of practitioners to obtain professional indemnity insurance as the scope of responsibilities explored seems extremely wide and that finding individuals with the breadth and depth of required knowledge will prove difficult. Finally, as our members are geographically spread both throughout England and across all devolved administration, we are concerned that the Bill – although superficially English legislation – will have unforeseen consequences for building safety and regulation across the UK.
We note the Bill imposes obligations and requirements on dutyholders as currently defined in the CDM Regulations 2015. APS believes the extend of these responsibilities may be – depending on the project - too broad to be undertaken by a single named individual. Clarity will be needed to ensure this can be discharged by an appropriate corporate body.
Training & Education
The APS delivers ongoing professional education and training for its members. And we support efforts to improve the skills, knowledge and experience of practitioners. But people holding principal designer posts at present are not likely to have all the skills that will be needed to undertake fully the new role.
This deficit cannot be made up overnight and against a backdrop of already complex specific regulations [for example for fire safety] and use of a large number of different and new building materials. As a result we feel the requirements of the Bill, if enacted, will need time – perhaps several years - to introduce as upskilling will be needed across not just our membership but the wider construction sector.
CDM Principal Designer
Many APS members currently carry out principal designer roles. Their skills are in health and safety relating to a design with the aim of promoting the health and safety of workers when working on a project. This is a different skill to designers on a project for which they act as principal designer.
Current role: Clause 11(1) of the CDM Regulations 2015 says a principal designer has to, “plan, manage and monitor the pre-construction …”. However, we feel the Bill wrongly assumes a principal designer has a role similar to that of a lead designer – that is, managing and co-ordinating design teams. This is not the case. In practice, principal designers usually look after health and safety issues on a construction site that result from design decisions made at the pre-construction stage. The CDM Regulations do not impose on principal designers duties in relation to the Building Regulations.
Proposed role: we feel the proposed principal designer duty holder role is very different to the current role under the CDM Regulations. This would give rise, at least, to confusion over nomenclature and difficulties in practice as well as the scope of the duties covered. It would be better to avoid this by considering the use of an alternative dutyholder title.
APS members are, largely, concerned with the pre-construction phase of any project. But what this means is blurred in practice. The CDM Regulations say this is, “any period of time during which design or preparatory work is carried out for a project and may continue during the construction phase”.
Design work normally continues into the construction phase. There is rarely a full-stop where design stops and before work starts. Design can continue right through any project as changes and amendments are made. It is not uncommon for this to last years on complex projects.
Principal designers currently have no contractual relationship with contractors and, therefore, can have no responsibility for the physical work required to make any project compliant with the Building Regulations. Changing this will require anyone assuming the new PD dutyholder role to have authority over contractors. The burden of ensuring compliance would then become very heavy indeed and would require the PD to have a much wider level of skills and breadth of experience than is currently usual – or even possible in one person.
APS is in favour of higher standards of safety throughout the entire life-cycle of any construction project – from drawing office to final decommissioning. We understand the underlying desire to ensure someone is responsible at every stage of a project so that responsibility is clear and no risk escapes between the cracks. We are keen to work with government to help make the legislation workable and effective understanding that, over time, there is a hope that standards across all projects will be improved.
We remain concerned, in particular, about the scope and complexity of the PD role as it is emerging, its confusion in definition and practicality with the role of lead designer and the difficulties in framing a role that can be rolled up into the skills and experience to be found in one person or insured for at realistic cost.
We remain happy to discuss.