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Competence and Resources

CDM (GB) Knowledge Base


Although the CDM2015 regulations make no specific references to competence and resources any organisation appointing or engaging any of the duty holders must ensure that adequate enquiries have been undertaken prior to appointing or engaging them under the regulations. This requirement applies for all construction projects whether notifiable or not.

When assembling the project team the Client must take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that anyone who will carry out any works (dependent on their role) have sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the work.

Each role should be assessed according to the requirements of the job; Contractor, Principal Designer, Principal Contractor, etc. In carrying out such checks, account should be taken of their knowledge and understanding of the work involved; their management systems and personnel for the control of risk and compliance with the relevant health and safety standards.

Additionally, they must have the capacity to apply this knowledge and experience to the work required, particularly in relation to the project for which they have been engaged.

The inquiries should also assess the allocation of time and resources.

The assessment of skills, knowledge and expertise and the adequacy of resources are required within organisations if they propose to perform the duties of Principal Designer, Designer, Principal Contractor or Contractor. No organisation should accept an appointment, engagement, contract, or propose to perform the duties themselves unless they are confident in their capabilities to perform the duties.

Either as part of a review process, or more likely at the tender review stage, the specific proposals for skills, knowledge and expertise within the legislation and performing the work on the specific project would be confirmed. The time and resources proposed to perform the work would also be assessed by the review of tender returns or proposals and would need to be re-assessed if significant changes were made to the project scope or arrangements.

Whatever the methods used to assess the skills, knowledge and experience for each role and the adequacy of resources of an organisation to perform the duties of Principal Designer, Designers, Principal Contractor or Contractors the assessments should focus on the needs of the particular project, be proportionate to the risks involved and the size and complexity of the work.

The law does not require any business or individual to use the services of a third party to help them bid for work. This is in reference to organisations that offer to carry out competence pre-qualification assessments for a fee. Rather than use the services of a third party it is equally acceptable for a business or individual to assess their own capability and supply relevant documentation in support of a bid for work. The standard questions in PAS 91 may be helpful to those wishing to carry out a self-assessment.

Third party accreditation schemes

There are a number of third party accreditation schemes that have been set up over the years to essentially perform the checks required by the previous CDM regulations. These can relieve the bureaucratic burden on Clients and Contractors. Most of these third party accreditation bodies have now collaborated with the HSE to for the 'Safety Schemes in Procurement Forum'. However these schemes are not the only tool an organisation can use.

The aims of SSIP are to:

  • act as an umbrella organisation to facilitate mutual recognition between health and safety pre-qualification schemes wherever it is practicable to do so.
  • actively advise and influence Clients about acceptable interpretation and appropriateness of health and safety competence standards in UK schemes.
  • embrace the SSIP core criteria for the demonstration of competence/capability or the health & safety module in PAS 91 as its threshold requirement.

Further information can be obtained from:

Management arrangements

The client has a key influence on the outcome of a construction project because the project is originated by the Client, often the Client sets the overall programme and the Client pays for the work to be executed. Clients should set the ground rules for health and safety even though the extent of their involvement in the project will not depend upon their own knowledge and experience of construction processes.

Large Clients may have their own comprehensive in-house design team, and even their own direct labour contracting team. There is nothing to prevent such Clients using these resources to provide the roles of Principal Designer or Principal Contractor providing they have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to do the work in accordance with the regulations. Smaller clients will need to buy-in the expertise they need and may need to seek professional advice on the competence of appointments they make.

On all projects the Client must verify that adequate management arrangements are in place to ensure that the roles, functions and responsibilities of all members of the project team are clear and understood. The organisations and individuals working on the project should know their roles, responsibilities and authorities and their relationship with other members of the team.

This will include:

  • checking that there is good co-operation and communication between Designers and Contractors;
  • checking that there is adequate protection for the Client's workers and/or members of the public;
  • checking to make sure that adequate welfare facilities have been provided by the Contractor; and
  • checking that the arrangements which the Contractor agreed to make to control key risks on site have been implemented.

The Client will either have to perform these checks themselves or obtain this assistance from others, which may be a person or organisation who previously had the competence to act as a CDM Co-ordinator under the previous regulations or have proven and sufficient skills and knowledge to guide the Client.

Design by Designers not based within Great Britain

Clients who contract design or arrange design work on the project to a Designer who is based outside Great Britain has an absolute duty to ensure that the design and the Designers' duties are performed in compliance with CDM2015. Additionally, if a Designer or a Contractor who is not based within Great Britain further sub-contracts design or arranges design work to be performed by another organisation who is not based in Great Britain, the Client is responsible for verifying their compliance.

Assessing the Principal Designer

The Principal Designer role is there to provide help and guidance to the Client as well as their duties under the CDM regulations. However the Client needs to ensure that the Principal Designer has the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the duties throughout the pre-construction phase.

The Principal Designer must be satisfied that any Designers' proposals demonstrate competence and has sufficient resources provisions to enable the work to be executed safely, and should advise the Client accordingly. The designs should be rigorous and consider how the works should be carried out safely. As well as this any designs should consider how the maintenance of the completed design would be carried out in a manner that considers and facilitates the occupational health and safety of all those involved.

Assessing the Designer

Any design organisation has an absolute duty to ensure that personnel allocated to their design team from internal resources have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to carry out any design work. This would apply to both employees and agency personnel employed on the project.

The Designer must also ensure that any sub-consultant designers or sub-contractors that are engaged by them on the project have the skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the work.

Designers who sub-contract design or arrange design work on the project to a Designer who is based outside Great Britain has an absolute duty to ensure that the design and the Designers' duties are performed in compliance with CDM2015. If the Designer who sub-contracts or arranges design work outside Great Britain is themselves not located within Great Britain, the client must verify their the skills, knowledge and experience.

Assessing the Principal Contractor

As with Contractors, the Principal Contractor must verify the skills, knowledge and experience of his own personnel working on the project and any sub-consultants and sub-contractors that he engages on the project. The Principal Contractor must also ensure that subcontractors verify the skills, knowledge and experience of organisations to whom they further subcontract.

When assessing the skills, knowledge and experience of the principal contractor team, the team should be assessed for its capability to perform the Principal Contractor's duties, taking in to account the specific requirements of the project.

Management, pre-qualification and approved lists

Any documentary evidence of any assessments undertaken should be kept up to date and made readily available to those parties that require it or wish to review it.

When appointing a Designer or a Contractor, sensible and proportionate enquiries should be made about their organisational capability to carry out the work. Only enquiries for information that will address the anticipated risks and capability of the supplier should be made - excessive or duplicated paperwork should be avoided because it can distract attention from the practical management of risks. Those making appointments will find the standard health and safety questions in PAS 91:2013 Construction related procurement.

Prequalification questionnaires are also a useful aid. Using PAS 91 standard questions is one way of helping to assess organisational capability

As well as carrying out pre-qualification checks on organisations, those responsible for making appointments should also check that the designer or contractor has enough experience and a good record in managing the risks involved in projects. These checks should ideally be carried out at the final stage after pre-qualification checks have been completed and before appointments are made.

When considering the requirements for Designers and other construction professionals, due weight should also be given to membership of an established professional institution or body. For example, do these bodies have arrangements in place which provide some reassurance that health and safety is part of the route to membership of their profession? However, questions should also be asked of individuals to ensure that they have sufficient skills, knowledge, and experience to carry out the work involved, and that they keep those capabilities up to date.

In certain circumstances it may be acceptable to maintain a carefully scrutinised approved list of Designers and Contractors who have a demonstrably fine record in accident prevention and the avoidance of occupational ill-health. Where such a situation exists, any particularly low item in the priced bill of quantities could be investigated to ensure that an omission has not occurred which could compromise the standards of safety and health provisions. Where a designer or contractor fails to perform to a satisfactory standard, the company should be removed from the approved list.