The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) say that clients must allow sufficient time for each stage of the project, but how much time should be allowed to comply with this duty?
It's important to give this consideration on all construction projects, and for projects that need to be notified to the HSE, you will be asked how much time has been allocated.
4.—(1) A client must make suitable arrangements for managing a project, including the allocation of sufficient time and other resources.
Allocating sufficient time is so important, it is the first legal duty of the client under CDM 2015.
This 'sufficient time' is known as the CDM planning period, because in the old 2007 version of the CDM regulations it was referred to as the "minimum amount of time before the construction phase which will be allowed to the principal contractor for planning and preparation for construction work". In other words, the time allocated to plan and prepare for the work.
Research by the HSE has shown that unrealistic deadlines are a large contributor to the level of risk on site. This is why the CDM regulations require the allocation of time to plan the work, and why when a construction project is notified to the HSE, they will ask for details of the planning period.
7. What is the time allocated by the client under regulation 4(1) for the construction work (in weeks, including all planning and preparation, as well as the construction phase)?
Common sense would agree with this argument, if you rush into to carrying out an activity, you may not have enough time to adequately assess the risks. You may also not have enough time to adequately assess the competence of the person you are appointing to carry out the role. They, in turn, may not have enough time to carry out any training or inductions required, or resourcing the required staff and equipment correctly.
Planning is the key to minimising risks, and in a high-risk construction environment, failure to minimise risk can have severe consequences.
Each team member needs to have the resources and time to plan the work properly. If members of the team are appointed early enough they can contribute to risk reduction.
At the design stage, the principal designer needs time to carry out their duties, and to assist designers by discussing areas of the design with health and safety implications. Contractors can contribute to discussions on buildability of the project and maintainability of the finished structure. These discussions can improve project success by eliminating problems that may have not been identified until halfway through the construction had the time not been given for this collaborative approach.
When appointing project team members (principal designer, principal contractor, designers and contractors), the client needs to consider the resources and time needed to plan and do the work properly.
The principal designer will need sufficient time after appointment, but prior to project commencement, to carry out their duties under the regulations.
Designers will need time to carry out their own CDM imposed duties and ensure they have adequately assessed the health and safety aspects of the design work.
The principal contractor needs time to plan the work, review the pre-construction information and develop the construction phase plan prior to work starting on site. This will include raising any queries, organising welfare facilities, and making sure they have all the information they need to manage the project safely on site.
Contractors should be given sufficient time to allow them to plan the work and make the necessary preparations for site commencement. This will include mobilising the plant, equipment and staff required for the project.
But how much time is required? 4 weeks? 6 weeks? 2 months? 6 months?
There's no one size fits all approach when it comes to the planning period for construction projects, if there was, the regulations would state it.
Every construction project is different, in size, complexity, duration, team and the amount of work involved.
More complex or larger projects are going to need a longer planning period so that all of the issues, hazards and risks are properly considered. Smaller simpler projects still need time to plan and prepare, but the process is often more straightforward and doesn't need as long.
While the client is responsible for the allocation of sufficient time, they are not expected to be an expert in the construction process. The client should consult with those they are appointing to get a good idea of the time they will need for planning and preparation. Both parties can then agree on a suitable time period.
These discussions should take place as early as possible in the initial project planning stages as clients must inform those they are appointing (principal designer, principal contractor, designers and contractors) of the time they are allowing for planning and preparation before the work starts.
The principal designer has a duty to assist the client in their duties and should be in a better position to advise on whether the timeframes being discussed are practical and reasonable for the project.
Although allowing a sufficient planning period for each stage of the project is a CDM imposed duty, this shouldn’t be just seen as a safety requirement. Good planning is the key to the smooth running and success of any project helping you reduce costs, and headaches, in the construction phase.
Still unsure or need help with CDM on your project? Our free step-by-step CDM duty holder guides can help you with your duties.