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26th September, 2018

How To Assess Competence For CDM

The requirements for competence has changed slightly in the current 2015 version of the regulations compared to the previous 2007 version.

The 2007 approved code of practice had a whole section dedicated to competence (Competence and training p.45 - 53), but the 2015 guidance doesn't even contain the word competence! Not once!

Does that mean we are no longer required to be competent when working in construction? Of course not, the CDM regulations are about making sites safer after all.

In this post, we will look at what the CDM regulations require when it comes to competence, and how we assess competence.

What do the CDM regulations say about competence?

Specifically, the CDM regulations say that those working on a construction project must have the skills, knowledge, experience and capability to carry out their role(s) in a way that secures health and safety.

8. General duties

(1) A designer (including a principal designer) or contractor (including a principal contractor) appointed to work on a project must have the skills, knowledge and experience, and, if they are an organisation, the organisational capability, necessary to fulfil the role that they are appointed to undertake, in a manner that secures the health and safety of any person affected by the project.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

Notice that competence is not just about training courses or certificates, although this can certainly form part of the knowledge element, and for certain tasks, such as gas or electrical work, certain licenses and qualifications are a must-have requirement.

The 2015 version of the regulations might not throw the word competence around as the 2007 version did, but when we look back at the 2007 regulations, it describes competence as having "sufficient knowledge of the specific tasks to be undertaken... sufficient experience and ability to carry out their duties in relation to the project", which is pretty much the same as the current requirement for skills, knowledge, experience and capability.

The CDM regulations place the duty to ensure competence on all members of the project team. The client and any other person appointing people on the project team must ensure those they appoint are competent and adequately resourced.

But should those being appointed make sure they are competent to the work, before putting themselves forward for the job? Surely if someone is incompetent to do the work, they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place?

The above is all true, and the CDM regulations do put a duty on contractors, designers and other consultants appointed to ensure they are competent to undertake the work for which they are being appointed.

The CDM regulations place duties on the appointees, as well as the appointed, as an extra safeguard layer of checks, to ensure that those appointed are competent and sufficiently resourced to plan and carry out the work safely.

Any contractor or designer appointing other members of the project team also has a duty to check competence, and any person accepting an appointment has a duty to make sure they are competent before accepting the appointment.

Get up to speed with CDM roles and their duties in our free CDM guides for all duty holders.

Every duty holder should be competent for their own role.

Designers (including the principal designer) have a duty to make sure that they are competent and adequately resourced to address the health and safety issues likely to be involved in the design.

Contractors (including the principal contractor) have a duty satisfy themselves that they and anyone they employ or engage are competent and adequately resourced for the construction work.

So, if a person or organisation does not have the skills, knowledge, experience and capability to perform the role, there are at least two potential breaches of the regulations. One by the person making the appointment, and one by the person accepting the appointment!

But why do the CDM regulations place such importance on competence?

The obvious answer is to ensure that work is carried out safely, which is the primary focus of the CDM regulations.

For example, appointing team members on the lowest price only, without regard to any training, skills, qualifications, experience, or standards could lead to the work being carried out by an incompetent team.

When part of the project team is incompetent, they cannot adequately control the hazards, and therefore increase the risk on site.

How do you assess competence under CDM?

How do you go about ensuring those you appoint are competent to do the work asked of them? Do you just ask them, or is there more to it?

Well, first of all, let's remember that the CDM competence requirement is a two-way street. Not only do you need to ensure that those you are appointing are competent, but they also need to be sure they are competent before accepting an appointment.

8. General duties

(1) A designer (including a principal designer) or contractor (including a principal contractor) appointed to work on a project must have the skills, knowledge and experience, and, if they are an organisation, the organisational capability, necessary to fulfil the role that they are appointed to undertake, in a manner that secures the health and safety of any person affected by the project.

(2) A designer or contractor must not accept an appointment to a project unless they fulfil the conditions in paragraph (1).

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

Competence is not a one size fits all approach, the competence required for an electrician will be different to a kitchen designer for example, but it all boils down to having the skills, knowledge, experience and capability for the work they plan to carry out.

Need help making appointments under CDM? Use the principal contractor appointment, principal designer appointment, contractor appointment, and designer appointment forms to make sure you always have your appointments in writing.

To assess competence the first step you can take involves assessing the organisation and management arrangements for health and safety in the work being undertaken.

The assessment will cover areas such as policy, arrangements, qualifications, training, access to appropriate advice, monitoring, accident reporting and records, subcontractor procedures, risk assessment and welfare provision.

This will often form part of a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) and is very common in construction tender processes, especially for the roles of principal contractor and principal designer.

This first area of competence is often assessed by various health and safety accreditation schemes developed specifically for the construction sector. There are a wide number of these accreditation schemes, such as CHAS, SafeContractor, Acclaim, and Exor.

Some clients may even require you to be a member of one of the above schemes in order to become involved with a particular project, and you can find out more about this type of accreditation in our blog post What Is SSIP Accreditation?

Next, you should check the ability to deal with the health and safety issues that will be involved in the project. While a contractor might have gained health and safety accreditation, is it relevant to the type of work planned in your project?

Maybe they have only carried out residential work previously, and this project is on an industrial site? It is important to check that the experience they have is relevant to the planned project, or if extra supervision or training will be required.

So remember, competence is a mixture of:

  • Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Capability

To check competence, you should make sure that the skills, knowledge, experience and capability a person or organisation possesses is relevant to the type and size of your project, in terms of the challenges, hazards and risks faced.

Need help assessing subcontractor competence? Download our subcontractor vetting questionnaire to help you gather the required health and safety management information.

This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and a degree in construction management. She is NEBOSH qualified and a member of IOSH.

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