The new CDM Regulations, whose aims are to clarify and simplify the much maligned CDM Regulations 1994 and to consolidate them with the Construction (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996, came into force on 6 April.

We covered some of the more substantial changes catered for in the new Regulations in our last Bulletin.

Has much changed from the old to the new Regulations? In a word (or two), not really. A fine rebranding and repackaging exercise has been carried out, but fundamentally there appear to be relatively few changes of real note. It is primarily the emphasis of the Regulations and ACOP that have changed.

There is abundant clarification of pre-existing duties. There is much more practical guidance in the new Approved Code of Practice, covering such issues as competency assessment, pre-construction information and construction phase plan. There are even some material alterations to the duties themselves but, bar perhaps the Client’s inability to divest himself of responsibility via an agent and the Designer’s new responsibility for designing safety into workplaces, they are short on real substance.

As far as enforcement is concerned, according to HSE statistics over the past five years there were only 75 successful prosecutions for breaches of the old Regulations. Of those prosecutions it is suggested that 75% were of Clients. Against this backdrop one might be tempted to ask, “Well, what’s all the fuss about?”

In terms of the new Regulations, however, that would be to ignore the fact that there were in the same period over 350 successful prosecutions for breaches of the Construction (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations, the major provisions of which have been subsumed into the New Regs.

Further, there are reasons for thinking that a significant number of “valid” prosecutions under the old Regulations will not appear in the HSE statistics. There will also be cases in which the HSE could have prosecuted under the Old Regs but chose not to, preferring instead to focus on the core duties under HASWA, breaches of which attract potentially stiffer penalties.

Finally, with the introduction of a new set of Regulations there comes almost always a substantial increase in enforcement focus. This can sometimes be fairly low key but on other occasions, such as with the introduction of the Work at Height Regulations in 2005, can be very noticeable.