The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is readying itself for a fresh offensive against architects and construction design professionals to enforce the CDM regulations.
The HSE has accused architects of 'abdicating responsibility' over their duty to assess the impact of their designs on site safety. As a result it has decided to roll-out the new 'Designer Initiative', piloted in Scotland and Newcastle last month, in which it inspects sites and studios - often unannounced - to check Construction and Design Management (CDM) regulation implementation.
An HSE spokesman said the agency was 'horrified'with the pilot's findings. Of the 123 sites visited, one-third of designers questioned were found to have 'little or no understanding' of their CDM duties.
The spokesman said the HSE's construction boss, Kevin Myers, responded by ordering inspectors to make 'CDM enforcement' a priority over the next 12 months.
'The Designer Initiative aims to help architects fulfil their safety duties, ' the spokesman said. 'But if we find particularly bad examples, we will prosecute the practices.'
The HSE is committed to reducing site deaths as part of Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction agenda, and the spokesman said architects 'could be doing more to design-out accidents on sites'.
The HSE's Nic Rigby, the inspector behind the Designer Initiative pilot, said that there was a widespread failure among architects to 'take the CDM regulations seriously'.
'Inspectors reported that the designers were often abdicating responsibility to reduce risk in relation to work at height by leaving it to the principal contractor, without first considering how they could change the design, ' he said.
Many designers viewed the safety harness as the panacea for protection against falls, without giving any consideration to eliminating the need to work at height, Rigby said.
The RIBA's chief CDM adviser, Brian Law, said he was pleased about the Designer Initiative. 'You will find some architects that are excellent at fulfilling their obligations, ' he said. 'But there are many that do not do it well. But the number of practices that really understand [CDM] completely is very small.
'Something needs to be done to increase awareness, ' Law said.
'Architects need to learn that they have to fulfil their duties under the CDM rules.
'They are really not that onerous. I think that it's just that many practices are ignorant, ' he added.