Explainers

BIM bytes: Health and safety role has BIM implications

31 May 2015 | By Assad Maqbool

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 have taken effect. The regulations firmly place the responsibility for health and safety with the person leading design during the pre-construction phase and this raises the question: how does this fit with the changing role of designers using BIM?

The role of CDM coordinator under the 2007 regulations – which have now been repealed – has all but disappeared. There are still some projects caught by CDM 2015’s transitional provisions but, from October, the role will be obsolete.

As discussed in the former approved code of practice (Managing Health and Safety in Construction), which has also fallen away with the repeal of the 2007 regulations, the CDM coordinator’s legal responsibility in respect of design work only extended to health and safety aspects of the design.

The central thrust of the revisions in CDM 2015 is to place that responsibility on the “principal designer”, being the person required to “plan, manage and monitor the pre-construction phase” – a role that now must include a responsibility to “coordinate matters relating to health and safety during the pre-construction phase”.

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Projects using BIM go right to the core of this principle. Projects that make full use of the advantages of BIM have a natural emphasis on a properly coordinated pre-construction phase. As such, the duty to “plan the various items or stages of work which are to take place simultaneously or in succession” and to estimate the periods of time for such stages should in any case be given due attention.

Equally, it makes sense to take into account health and safety issues in both the layering of the BIM model by work stages and the process of clash detection. The ability to “build it twice” with BIM gives the chance during the virtual build to check for health and safety issues.

However, this additional responsibility is a concern for a designer without the expertise of a CDM coordinator in managing health and safety issues. In the same way that I have previously discussed that the BIM coordinator and BIM information manager roles now appear to be a subset of the lead designer’s services, it now appears that the designer must add another string to their bow.

The alternative to upskilling is a series of subconsultancies, including now a health and safety subconsultancy – which might create employment for former CDM coordinators!

As with BIM, the conclusion must be that designers and the design phase are being recognised as the key foundations to a successful project.

Assad Maqbool is a partner at Trowers & Hamlins specialising in projects and construction

This additional responsibility is a concern for a designer without the expertise of a CDM coordinator in managing health and safety issues– Assad Maqbool, partner, Trowers & Hamlins