Project Scotland

“Health and safety should be part of a holistic process”

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Andrew Leslie

The Association for Project Safety (APS) celebrates its 21st birthday this year. Edinburgh-based Technical and Standards Manager, Andrew Leslie, recently met with Project Scotland’s Fraser Rummens to discuss the history of the organisation, how health and safety has changed and the issues affecting today’s construction industry.

Q) WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT APS?

A) I am the Technical and Standards Manager. That involves producing technical support material for members, giving advice on membership and I’m also involved with setting out membership standards, accredited training and dealing with membership applications. I give regular seminars and CPD on CDM 2015 to members and other organisations.

Q) WHAT ARE THE AIMS OF APS?

A) APS has basically five strategic priorities. What we want to do is strengthen and refresh our members’ skills and their capability to deliver services into the industry. This is particularly important following the recent changes to the CDM Regulations.

We would like to increase advocacy and have more impact in the industry at large.We aim to grow membership numbers and be more influential and also increase the range of products that we deliver to our members.

We are working in partnership with other professional bodies and government organisations in an attempt to create or be part of a holistic pan-industry approach to design risk management and construction health and safety. As a final aim, we are looking at our own infrastructure – the way we run as an organisation, our regions, how our resources work, how they are applied and our governance. We want to be the authoritative membership body for construction health and safety risk management and we want to be setting standards, raising performance, providing guidance and working with others in the industry.

Q) WHAT’S THE HISTORY OF APS?

A) We were set up as a membership organisation in response to the Construction Design and Management regulations (CDM) which came into force in 1995. APS has changed and developed because the regulations themselves have changed twice. A revised set of regulations came out in 2007 and it was decided for various reasons to change the regulations again in 2015 – APS has had to adjust our thinking again and cut our cloth to those new regulations.

Q) WHAT ARE YOUR MEMBERSHIP FIGURES TODAY?

A) Membership hovers around 5,000 and over 3,000 of those are practising as health and safety consultants within the industry in one of the CDM2015 duty holder roles or in support roles to one of the duty holders.

Q) WHAT DO YOU OFFER YOUR MEMBERS?

A) I think the key thing for members of APS is that there is industry recognition of that member’s capability to carry out construction Health and Safety roles with an emphasis on the Pre Construction Phase – the design period (as an individual or business member) and having support from a dedicated health and safety organisation. For our members who wish to be practitioners as health and safety specialists within the industry, APS membership requires the demonstration of skills, knowledge and experience in construction Health and Safety together with a commitment to Continual Professional Development.

Q) HOW HAS THE ISSUE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY CHANGED?

A) The real change came about with CDM, initially in 1995, because this specifically focused the thinking of design and construction professionals on issues relating to worker health and safety. By introducing formal statutory roles into that process the CDM Regulations really did pinpoint where responsibilities lay. The key change was to try and engage with clients and designers so they would think about health and safety during the design process and not leave it to the contractor to sort out during the construction phase and the three versions of CDM have been variously trying to crack that particular nut.

Health and safety has been perceived for quite a few years as having to do with mainly safety and not so much health. We at APS are currently majoring on occupational health. The interesting – and scary – statistic is that the number of health related fatalities is a hundred times greater than the number of fatalities through safety related issues on construction projects.

Q) WHAT CAN BE DONE TO CHANGE THE PERCEPTION OF ‘HEALTH AND SAFETY GONE MAD’?

A) The UK Government, over the last few years, has gone some distance to try and reduce red tape, amalgamate regulations, reduce the number of regulations and simplify the remaining regulations. They’ve also gone some way to expose myths relating to health and safety. One of the perceptions about construction health and safety design risk management is that it is invasive, that it is an add-on. If you’re a designer or contractor, health and safety is something you must do but don’t necessarily want to do – and it’s going to cause more work and more effort and add cost. The way APS views design and construction health and safety is that it should be part of a holistic process, no matter whether it is design or construction. It needn’t be invasive; it should be part of the overall process of designing and building and, if done properly, should save both time and money.

Q) WHAT EFFECT HAS TECHNOLOGY HAD?

A) The Government has really pushed BIM and with the date for Government project compliance level 2 now passed and their commitment to BIM level 3 in place, it is quite clear that BIM is forming an essential part of the forward planning in terms of technology – and that this technology can contribute massively to design and construction health and safety information management and transfer.

APS has taken this on board. We have, for example, produced a ‘BIM for construction health and safety’ book and we are members of various groups looking at BIM processes through the Construction Industry Council and HSE. This is an on-going process. We think that collaborative design processes will assist in the healthier and safer construction of a project, although we think expertise built into BIM in relation to design risk management still requires further development. If we look at other areas of technology, the fact is that many projects are operating entirely digitally in terms of written communication, production, reviewing and issuing of drawings and with documents commonly stored on Internet or Intranet.

Q) WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTY FACE?

A) The challenge is to reduce as far as possible harm to workers in the construction industry.

 

The perception of ‘health and safety gone mad’ is one of the challenges but we want to move towards better health management on projects and also get through to smaller projects – and the hard to reach CDM duty holders – where most accidents and ill health occur. One of the key elements of the research carried out by HSE over the last few years is that smaller projects are the ones where most accidents and ill health occur. It’s quite clear from the research that, generally speaking, the larger firms got to grips with health and safety but the smaller projects didn’t and that remains the case.

Resources are one aspect – time, money, etc. Up until the introduction of CDM 2015, smaller projects and domestic projects were not notifiable to HSE and that was seen widely within the industry, and wrongly, that a non-notifiable project didn’t really involve either the designers or the contractors in meeting the requirements of CDM regulations. I know from personal contacts within the industry that this is still very much the mind-set, particularly for the very small contractor. This thinking is less so now for designers because of support from professional bodies and organisations such as APS. Basically, the smaller end of the industry felt it didn’t need to adhere to CDM and therefore if you think statistically of the number of projects that are going on at any one time in the country, probably 60 to 70 per cent will be very small projects. Domestic work is now included in CDM 2015, small works are included because notification is no longer the trigger for anyone to involve the key duty holders that are required in CDM 2015, so there are legal requirements on everybody undertaking construction work.  All you need are two contractors working on a site at any one time to trigger the full effect of the Regulations.  There is also a perception that small sites are safe and healthy – the reality is that 20 tradesmen die each week from a disease caused by their work in the construction industry. Part of the remit of the industry and part of what APS is doing is to engage with and educate the micro and smaller end of the industry.

Q) WHAT ARE THE FUTURE AIMS?

A) The overarching remit is to help the industry at large address design risk management; to influence and make decisions during the Pre-Construction Phase before any work of any kind starts. In the immediate future we are working on facilitating pan-industry discussions to clarify the implementation of CDM 2015.

We want to progress a better understanding of design risk management. It’s a simple concept of bringing in management of construction risks during the design process which assists the management of risk throughout the whole life of the project. One of the things that we’re faced with is that the Northern Ireland CDM regulations have not come into force at the same time as the GB regulations and so one of the aims is to make sure our members there are fully supported through the change they are about to undertake.

Q) WHAT HAS APS ACHIEVED?

A) I’d say that our headline achievements are illustrated in many ways by having such a large membership whom we have retained through changes in regulation and the developments that we have been making in terms of engaging with the industry, the Government and HSE. We have made inroads into educating designers in Design Risk Management and hope that as a result more construction site workers have gone home safer and healthier at the end of their shifts. With an exciting forward programme, we’ll hopefully see similar achievements over the next five years and more.

Q) ANYTHING YOU ARE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF?

A) I co-authored the Principal Designer’s handbook. One of the issues facing the industry in April 2015 was that designers, many of whom had no real experience of CDM, were expected to pick up the duties of Principal Designer. Although Regulations and guidance were available from HSE and CITB, this handbook covered the basics for the “newbie” Principal Designer, written by experienced designers and CDM practitioners, and aligning the CDM requirements with typical project milestones.

Q) CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE APS NATIONAL AWARDS 2016?

A) The 9th edition of the APS National CDM and Student Designer Awards is set to be bigger and better than ever. Our judging panel is made up of leading industry figures including the HSE and the Awards Ceremony will take place at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel, London on October 27.

Find out more about the APS National Awards 2016:  www.aps.org.uk/national-cdm-awards-2016

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