Health and Safety in Construction – answers to some questions September 2009

In my lecture to Architecture Part 3 candidates on 9th September 2009 I invited the audience to submit any issues they’d like to raise.  These (see below) are the questions and my responses.  My responses are not necessarily definite  and I provide them without liability and solely for the purpose of revision for the Part 3 examination.

I will leave the file on the site until the end of October, after which any candidate may email me, or Vivien Walker, and I’ll send them a copy.

If you’ve got any comments or think I’m wrong or misleading please email me direct (address provided on the lecture handout).

Nick SC

p.s. The system is preventing me from uploading the file so I’m copying it below. NSC

QUESTIONS IN LECTURE ON 9TH SEPTEMBER 2009
(Please note that the answers are my own and are provided without liability solely for the purpose of revision for the Part 3 examination.) Note that underlining is by me.

1) Has health and safety/CDM gone too far in restricting the design flair of the architect?
There should be little impact on scope for design flair. As I explained health and safety is not the over-riding criterion, but the designer must apply ERIC (see one of lecture handouts) and be satisfied that the there is a safe way of constructing what has been designed. This may require that news skills are brought to bear. Also, there are other duties such as ensuring that the contractor is competent to do the work – it may be appropriate to as for a method statement as part the tender process for particularly hazardous work.

2) How can an architect ‘help’ the contractor produce the health and safety file at Practical Completion. Also can it be enforced and whose role is it to govern and impose the process on the contractor?
Provision of the relevant information would normally be a contractual requirement and it should be possible to recover the cost if is deemed necessary to obtain the information by other means e.g. the cost of obtaining as-built drawings and or contacting equipment suppliers to obtain information such as operation and maintenance requirements. There are contractual requirements in trying to enforce the provision of the information required by withholding the Completion Certificate and triggering the liquidated damages provisions of the contract. In contract law LADs cannot be deemed to be a penalty to be enforceable. They should not exceed a reasonable pre-estimate of losses and costs caused by late completion.

The architect could help the contractor to produce it by including a separate element for pricing (e.g. in the BQ) and also by explicitly listing the form and minimum content of what the contractor is expected to supply. Don’t forget that the duties ultimately are criminal – but enforcement is up to HSE.

3) Is it sufficient to put a note on drawings referring to a separate document which contains all the notes relating to health and safety matters?
The Approved Code of Practice (paragraph 134) clarifies this and I’m reluctant to go beyond the advice given. a) says that notes on drawings are preferable but that they can refer to other documentation if more detail is needed ….. (to me this means that some information on the drawings is needed). One must consider what is reasonable and whether it’s realistic to expect the other information to actually get through to those doing detailed planning and execution of the work. b) says that information should only be that which will be useful to those constructing or maintaining the structure and c) relates to suggested construction sequences.

4) As the CDM Co-ordinator cannot be on site everyday to view the works the Contractor’s H & S plan there could be unsafe practices . Should the CDM Co. be inspecting the works? Or does relate to the H & S file?
There is no duty to supervise the implementation of the contractor’s plans or to supervise or monitor construction work. Refer to the Approved Code of Practice paragraph 108 which lists what the CDM co-ordinator does not have to do. I’ve used the words from the paragraph almost directly. There is not room for doubt on this. But don’t forget the point about the CDM co-ordinator being having duties in relation to design after the start of construction – e.g. in relation to variations, additional work, AND temporary works design and any other design carried out by the contractor.
My comments on question 2 may help in relation to the second part of this question.

5) I understand that it has become compulsory to attend a short 10 day course on health and safety Is this an adequate amount of time considering the length of time it takes an architect to qualify?
I know of no such explicit requirement in law and would be astounded if the law approached such a complex area so blandly (firms or even institutions such as the RIBA/RICS etc. may have their own requirements but I’m referring to legal requirements). The functional requirements are stated in the regulations and pages 45 to 53 of the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) are all devoted to competence and how to assess it. There are tables on page 52 which give examples of the level of attainment for different roles and Appendix 4 also covers ‘core competence’. What is required must depend on the team and the team skills, the nature of the work being undertaken and experience in that type of work, the level of responsibility, access to supplementary skills and advice etc. etc. It would be impossible to be categorical.
6) On non-notifiable projects is there still a requirement to produce a health and safety file? If so, does this get passed to the client at the end of the project or does it just get executed by the contractor?
The answer is no – there is no explicit requirement, but the C in ERIC (control) may require that suitable information is provided e.g. in relation to maintenance and demolition. The duties on designers apply to all construction work regardless of notifiability, and provisions in the Health and Safety at Work Act, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (for example) apply in all cases. For example Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act (1974) states:
“3. (1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
(2) It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
(3) In such cases as may be prescribed, it shall be the duty of every employer and every self-employed person, in the prescribed circumstances and in the prescribed manner, to give to persons (not being his employees) who may be affected by the way in which he conducts his undertaking the prescribed information about such aspects of the way in which he conducts his undertaking as might affect their health or safety. “
(Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1973)

If information is lacking the architect could be breaching this section, at least if the result is likely to cause risk to anybody who could with due consideration be affected.

7) De-commissioning of a building: what are the responsibilities of the designer towards decommissioning at the end of its life? What document might demonstrate that this has been considered?
Demolition and de-commissioning risks are definitely within the scope of the designer’s duties under CDM. The normal process of recording deliberation regarding risk would apply and I quote a chunk of text from a guidance document available on the Construction Skills website (see http://www.cskills.org/supportbusiness/healthsafety/cdmregs/guidance/Copy_5_of_index.aspx)

2.7 Recording the process/outputs
2.7.1 The ACoP makes the point that it is not a legal requirement under CDM 2007 to record your deliberations (paragraph 144), but emphasises the benefits of recording and providing information on the significant risks (discussed at 1.7.6). This will satisfy the requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 for designers with more than five employees, to keep a written record of the significant risks identified in risk assessments (see paragraph 24 of the ACoP to those regulations).
2.7.2 In addition, it makes good business sense to record the output, and the requirements of formal quality assurance schemes will normally dictate that this is done. An audit trail of significant design decisions provides a quick reminder at later stages of the project and during design review. This process need not be complicated and could be achieved in a number of ways including:
• a risk register: this provides the opportunity to combine the more strategic risks
under CDM 2007 with other project risks to provide a single live document. (But
bear in mind that it will not be appropriate to include all CDM risks as, despite
being important, some are not of sufficient project status. However, ‘discipline
registers’ can also be established.) A risk register can be a very helpful, simple tool
for recording issues, actions and ownership, in a manner that can be readily
transmitted around the team (see Figure 18).
• a stand-alone CDM record: this might refer to the risk register but relate solely to
issues under CDM 2007
• part of a formal quality assurance process: the format would be governed by the
particular process and the organisation’s procedures.
2.7.3 It is essential that careful thought is put into the arrangement and content of whatever method is
adopted. If the process is either uncontrolled or ill-considered, there is a danger that it will not add
value and will become another bureaucratic paper trail.
2.7.4 A typical register might contain the heads given in Figure 18.

(8) How have site accidents dropped since CDM was introduced?
There has been a general downward trend but it would be hard to see from the graph when CDM became applicable. The law tends to reflect developments in society and increased concern or outrage about health and safety lapses are reflected in newspaper stories and broadcasting media. Designers, contractors, managers, employers and employees respond to those societal changes by giving increased attention and training.

9) Which other countries have implemented CDM or have similar systems? What is the overall cost of implementing CDM?
All EU countries (and European Economic Area countries such as Norway and Iceland) have had to implement the Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites Directive but CDM goes beyond the minimum requirements and implementation in other countries is often very different. Enforcement and compliance vary very widely. I believe that other English speaking countries (at least) have broadly equivalent requirements but don’t know about the details.

10) On domestic projects how is health and safety managed? If an architect has notified the contractor that health and safety standards on site are inadequate who is responsible if things go wrong?
The normal CDM designer and contractor duties still apply. Some duties are covered in CDM but acts such as the Health and Safety and Work Etc. Act, manslaughter law and numerous regulations apply very generally in any case. The designer should notify the contractor of safety issues (even not empowered by the contract) and you can always ‘whistle-blow’ to the HSE (who will respect anonymity as far as possible). The general duty of care principle would also apply.

11) How do you become a CDM co-ordinator?
It’s a matter of gaining the right experience, training and competence (see details in the Approved Code of Practice) and possibly joining a firm which does the work. The former Association of Planning Supervisors has renamed itself the Association for Project Safety and they may provide suggestions and even a qualification: see http://www.associationforprojectsafety.co.uk/home.php

There is also Nebosh (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) qualifications which are well respected e.g. the National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety at http://www.nebosh.org.uk/Qualifications/Certificate/default.asp?cref=54&ct=2

12) What exactly is asbestos and why is it everywhere?
The Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asbestos looks to be OK about what it is – it’s a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, and its properties of fire-resistance and insulation, amongst others, gave it numerous applications in buildings (and elsewhere e.g. brake linings, fire protection clothing). It took a while before the health effects were noticed (they were first denied and evidence was suppressed, as appears to be normal in such cases viz. tobacco and its numerous ill effects). There’s an interesting account at http://www.btinternet.com/~ibas/Frames/f_lka_tn_dev.htm from which I quote

“During the sixties T&N promulgated different versions of the threat posed by asbestos. To an important customer who asked awkward questions in 1966, T&N wrote: “There is no proof that asbestos can cause Mesothelioma and it is by no means the sole cause of this disease.” But in 1965 Turner & Newall’s own company doctor John Knox had warned the Board that: “Exposure to Asbestos, even though it may have been transient, and many years previous, is an important factor in Mesothelioma of the pleura””

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Web Resources for Dissertation Students (CZ/BD)

Contents (hotlinks)

Wiki for placement students

Google Notes: (search for Google Notebook)

Social Bookmarking – del.icio.us

Mindmapping

Free backups and retrieval

 

Wiki for placement students

https://mw.brookes.ac.uk/display/placement/Home

All placement students are required to enter two entries onto the Wiki.

 Quotation from the front page of the Wiki:  “You now have 30 or more years’ collective experience under your belts and it seems to be a good idea to capture some of that, especially as your experience is right up-to-date: this is the ‘wiki’ set up for that purpose. A wiki is a type of website that allows anyone visiting the site to add, to remove, or otherwise to edit all content, very quickly and easily, sometimes without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative writing. The term wiki is a shortened form of wiki wiki which is from the native language of Hawaii (Hawaiian), where it is commonly used as an adjective to denote something “quick” or “fast” (Hawaiian dictionary). Source: Wikipedia – the online encyclopaedia, is an ambitious example of how wikis are can be used).

Everyone registered on U33585 (the placement module) and U33599 (dissertation – includes all due to graduate this year) has access rights to the wiki. This means that you have the right to add text, illustrations (gif’s & jpg’s – up to about 100k each – use Irfanview (a compact and quick freeware program) for that purpose), and documents such as pdf’s. The sorts of things I hope you’ll contribute are:

  • technical and trade terms with what you understand them to mean and possibly photographs illustrating what is meant.
  • procedures which you came across where you had to learn what was expected e.g. ‘change orders’
  • acronyms (the initial letters of a phrase, such as ‘CVI’ – confirmation of verbal instruction, JCT, IStructE, …) which you have come across
  • problems which you encountered and advice on how to tackle similar problems in the future.
  • quality issues e.g. what to look for when inspecting work done
  • personality problems, such as difficult people, and how to deal with them.
  • what to do to enhance your prospects of being given responsibility and promotion (in due course)
  • anything else which you think could be useful for future students or things which staff might not know or should ensure that future students covered before doing the placement year.

Apart from adding new material to the website (because that’s what the wiki becomes), you can comment on, or even edit, other people’s edits (changes are trackable and I will have controlling rights). You are also able to start separate ‘pages’ so that there is some kind of classification.”

Google Notes: (search for Google Notebook)

This allows you to enter your own notes or text and, if you’ve installed it onto your computer(s) you can highlight anything on a website, right-click, and ‘Note to Google Notebook’. You can open the notebook from any computer and everything noted from websites includes the link to the website, saving you from recording it in your list of references at that moment.

More information (from Google Notebook welcome page)

  • Clip useful information.
    You can add clippings of text, images and links from web pages to your Google Notebook without ever leaving your browser window.
  • Organize your notes.
    You can create multiple notebooks, divide them into sections, and drag-and-drop your notes to stay organized.
  • Get access from anywhere.
    You can access your Google Notebooks from any computer by using your Google Accounts login.
  • Publish your notebook.
    You can share your Google Notebook with the world by making it public.
  • New! Get access from your phone.
    You can now access Google Notebook from your mobile phone by going to http://www.google.com/notebook/m.

Take a tour of Google Notebook »

Social Bookmarking – del.icio.us

http://del.icio.us e.g. http://del.icio.us/spencertree (explore the ‘tags’ or keywords for information and ideas about potential research topics – view them in ‘cloud format’ which is more compact and where the font size indicates the relative number of websites with that particular ‘tag’)

What is del.icio.us?

del.icio.us is a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. You can use del.icio.us to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the del.icio.us community.
  • Discover new things. Everything on del.icio.us is someone’s favorite — they’ve already done the work of finding it. So del.icio.us is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy.

del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website — the primary use of del.icio.us is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On del.icio.us, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.

You can also use del.icio.us to see the interesting links that your friends and other people bookmark, and share links with them in return. You can even browse and search del.icio.us to discover the cool and useful bookmarks that everyone else has saved — which is made easy with tags.

All you need is a browser and an internet connection. Sound good? Here’s how to get started. If you’d like to find out more, keep reading.

What can I use del.icio.us for?

del.icio.us is an open-ended system, so you decide how you want to use it. Here are examples of things you can do with saving bookmarks on del.icio.us:

  • Research – Writing an article? Researching an industry? Slaving away on your dissertation? Use del.icio.us to keep track of all the source materials and commentary that you find online.
  • Wishlist – Go to any commerce site, find what you like, save it to del.icio.us and tag it as wishlist. Then you can tell people to check out your wishlist bookmarks by giving them a link to http://del.icio.us/spencertree/wishlist .
  • Podcast – Want to hear some great podcasts? Visit the mp3+podcast tag combination and start listening. Are you a podcaster? Start posting your mp3 files to del.icio.us and we will create an RSS feed for you.
  • Vacation – Planning a trip? Save links to hotels, activities, and transportation and use tags like “travel”, “vacation”, and “to-visit”. Collaborate with friends and family by using the “for:username” tag.
  • Linklog – Save bookmarks to interesting websites and add a bit of commentary to create a lightweight linklog. Then, use linkrolls or the daily blog posting feature to include your del.icio.us bookmarks on your blog or website.
  • Cookbook – Whenever you find a great recipe on a website, save it to del.icio.us. Tag it with the recipe’s ingredients or style of cooking, and then when you’re wondering what to make for dinner, you can use your saved bookmarks to help you remember the perfect recipe.
  • Collaboration – Friends, coworkers, and other groups can use a shared account, special tag, or their del.icio.us networks to collect and organize bookmarks that are relevant — and useful — to the entire group.

Mindmapping

See the video on the power of mindmapping on http://www.imindmap.com/videos/

Two links to mindmapping websites, including free mindmapping software at: http://del.icio.us/spencertree/mindmap

Free backups and retrieval

See http://mozy.com/home

Try to protect yourself against computer disasters during your final yearYou can have up to 2 GB of backup free. Backups are easy to set up (you select the folders you want to backup) and are normally automated (e.g. every 6 hours). Everything is encrypted for data security.

Secure password generation and storage

Don’t use the same insecure password for every online registration. Try the opensource (and free) Password Safe: http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/

You can store other information, such as software registration keys, and you can install the program and encrypted data file onto memory sticks (so that it’ll run on any computer). You can use ‘autotype’ to avoid having to type complicated passwords onto websites. If you use this make sure you have several backups, in different places e.g. Mozy, amongst others.

Nick SC March 2008

Posted in dissertation, IT, resources | 7,846 Comments

CDM (2007): Do the new regulations increase the scope of client liability for construction?

In Building magazine (23rd August 2007) an article by Eleanor Harding had the title: “Clients responsible for construction deaths, warns expert”. It went on “Building site deaths could now be the responsibility of clients because of new regulations, according to an expert on construction law.

Ken Salmon, construction lawyer at Mace & Jones, warned that it is now up to the client to ensure that those employed are competent, and that they have been provided with health and safety information.

The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 in April, widened responsibility for safety on sites. Clients who commission new buildings are now responsible for health and safety, even if they are not directly involved in construction work. Previously, it was only the contractors, designers and managers who faced liability.

The client will also be responsible for providing sufficient planning time and making arrangements for managing the project. They could even incur liability for choosing a particular design system or product.

Salmon said: “A death on a building site will be followed up by an investigation of the care taken by all parties, including the individuals whose only role is choosing the contractors, designers or managers and footing the bills.”

One reader asked whether all clients could be expected to understand the nature of construction risks and took a cynical view of the reason for the alleged increase in client liability. However I find the comments by Clare Thomas, Associate, GHP Consultancy more compelling. She wrote: “Do not be dragged down the line of thinking which suggests the client must become a Health & Safety expert overnight.

The “client” is not required to know or even understand the intricacies of construction or H&S.

The whole point of the “new” legislation is to make clients more accountable for what happens in their name, but charges them with the responsibility of ensuring they have adequate, sensible and competent professional advice. (not actually doing it themselves). And where a project is notifiable this advice comes from the appointment of the CDM Co-ordinator.

What CDM 2007 calls for is that the client must give time and resource for adequate planning to allow the other dutyholders to carry out their roles effectively and thus ensure that: 1. Risk is designed out at an early stage where possible (competent designers would ensure this happens with a CDM Co-ordinator to oversee this) 2. Residual risk is communicated to those who need to know about it (designers talking to the principal contractor, CDM co-ordinator preparing the pre-construction H&S Information) 3. Risk is managed on site by the principal contractor whose competence/Construction Phase H&S Plan is vetted by the client, again on the advice of the CDM co-ordinator.

The client therefore doesn’t need to be an expert he just needs to know that he needs professional advice from competent practitioners and not cut corners to avoid paying for this advice.

None of this should come as a surprise to any construction professional as it’s been openly debated for the last 18 months and the legislation has been in force since April this year.”

Posted in Health and safety, Uncategorized | 6,817 Comments

Arch. Pt. III: Should a CDM co-ordinator be appointed for master-planning?

At the talk on 10th September 2007 we discussed whether the duty to appoint a CDM co-ordinator related to master-planning. Under the CDM a “project” “means a project which includes or is intended to include construction work and includes all planning, design, management or other work involved in a project until the end of the construction phase”; master-planning relates to work which eventually is intended to include construction work, but probably falls within the scope of “initial design work” as discussed in an earlier posting today (30th September 2007). The same comments about considering health and safety made there are also relevant here. The thrust of the regulations appears to be on more immediate risks such on falls, slips and illness caused by hazardous materials but broader, but more strategic risks are not excluded.

These broader risks, relevant to master-planning, might include such health and safety issues as urban design which tends to promote the use of cars as against walking and cycling. This has been shown in research to be related to obesity and ill-health. Other risks which might also need be considered at the master-planning stage are flood risk (building in the flood-plain), or on areas of contaminated land or soil instability. I’ve never heard of cases where such longer term risks have been cited by the HSE (but I’m not a lawyer so I’m saying this tentatively in the absence of finding any authoritative comment one way or the other). However, in law there are occasions when the limits of the law are tested, and sometimes extended, in the courts.

My feeling is therefore that there is no need under the regulations to appoint a CDM Co-ordinator for the Masterplanning stage. However, when the CDM co-ordinator is appointed that appointee should instigate a review of the master-plan, or at least check that health and safety factors were properly considerd by the design team, before design of individual projects, such as buildings, roads and bridges proceeds too far. The risks identified in the review of the master-plan should be approached using the ‘ERIC’ strategy (ERIC: eliminate, reduce at source, inform, control).

As commented in the earlier posting it might be commercially sensible to appoint the CDM co-ordinator earlier rather than as late as possible.

Posted in Health and safety, Uncategorized | 5,445 Comments

Arch Pt. III: Who has responsibility for submitting Form F10 to the HSE?

In discusson somebody pointed out that the client has to sign form F10 – the form which has to be submitted to the Health and Safety Executive. This is true but but only to signify that they are aware of their duties under CDM. Under Reg. 21(1) It is the CDM co-ordinator who has the duty to submit the F10 (the form as such is not necessary provided the information required by the form is provided) ‘as soon as possible after their appointment’ – further information, such as the details of the Principal Contractor, if not known at the time have to be submitted in due course.

Posted in Health and safety, Uncategorized | 7,569 Comments

Arch Pt. III: Timing of the CDM co-ordinator appointment – before Stage D?

At my talk on 10th September one issue raised was whether the CDM co-ordinator appointment hinges on an ‘intention to build’ as signified by the starting of work on detailed design (Stage D). The CDM (2007) regulations state in Regulation 18 Additional Duties of designers:

Appointments by the client where a project is notifiable

14. —(1) Where a project is notifiable, the client shall appoint a person (“the CDM co-ordinator”) to perform the duties specified in regulations 20 and 21 as soon as is practicable after initial design work or other preparation for construction work has begun.

(2) After appointing a CDM co-ordinator under paragraph (1), the client shall appoint a person (“the principal contractor”) to perform the duties specified in regulations 22 to 24 as soon as is practicable after the client knows enough about the project to be able to select a suitable person for such appointment.

 

This suggests to me that the appointment should be not later than after the beginning of Stage D. But it is interesting to see that in the Plan of Work 1998 (I haven’t seen the revised version at the time of writing) the role of the Planning Supervisor (i.e. predecessor to the CDM co-ordinator) begins in Stage A).

Important – note that under CDM Reg. 8(2) “where a project is notifiable, no designer shall commence work (other initial design work) in relation to the project unless a CDM co-ordinator has been appointed for the project.”

Lawyers will look at documents where the meanings of expressions are not clear. HSE guidance leaflet INDG 411 ‘Want construction work done safely?’ A quick guide for clients on the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (free download from the HSE website) says: “You should appoint the CDM co-ordinator as soon as possible, but no later than the initial design/preparation stage” (paragraph 8). This is not law, nor does it have the status of an “Approved Code of Practice” but it could be influential. Incidentally, it also states: CDM 2007 does not require the CDM co-ordinator to supervise or monitor work on site.”

What guidance is there on what the HSE means by ‘initial design work?’

The Approved Code of Practice is clearly much more influential ACOPs have a “special legal status. If you are prosecuted for breach of health and safety law, and it is proved that you did not follow the relevant provisions of the Code, you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way or a Court will find you at fault” (from the frontispiece to Managing Health and Safety in Construction – the document which contains the regulations and the ACOP). At Paragraph 66 this says:

“66 Early appointment is crucial for effective planning and establishing management arrangements from the start. The regulations require the appointment to take place as soon as is practicable after initial design work or other preparation for construction work has begun. This allows the client to appraise their project needs and objectives, including the business case and any possible constraints on developments to enable them to decide whether or note to proceed with the project before appointing the CDM co-ordinator. The CDM co-ordinator needs to be in a position to be able to co-ordinate design work and advise on suitability and compatibility of designs, and therefore they should be appointed before significant detailed design work begins. Significant detailed design work includes preparation of the initial concept design and implementation of any strategic brief. As a scheme moves into the detailed design stage, it becomes more difficult to make fundamental changes that eliminate hazards and reduce risks associated with early design decisions.”

The bold sentences suggest that the appointment should be at an earlier stage than Stage D. This makes clear how important the HSE regards it to consider health and safety at the early stages of the project. By complying with this the CDM co-ordinator would be in place to give advice and the benefit of the special skills he or she brings to the design even at the early stages. The ACOP shows how you can comply with the law but ‘you may use alternative methods to those set out in the Code or order to comply with the law’ (from the same frontispiece referred to above).

So, my interpretation (and we need a court’s interpretation to make any claim with authority – until then there remains doubt) is that it’s advisable to appoint the CDM co-ordinator earlier than Stage D, but that if you don’t you could, if the job is done properly, find the CDM co-ordinator requiring a review of decisions made earlier and the client and designer might have to face up to the possible reversal of strategic decisions and design choices which had been taken.

Commercially it makes more sense for the CDM co-ordinator input to happen during the very earliest stages and before the gathering of the client’s information and the appointment of the designer. Amongst things that the CDM co-ordinator, once appointed, should advise the employer on is the competence of the designers in health and safety terms. If the lead designer is also the CDM co-ordinator, many of these problems are resolved. All but the smallest practices might consider hiring sufficient expertise to enable them to fulfill the role.

Timing of prosecutions
Cases are most likely to arise looking back at the build-up to an accident or dangerous occurrence after the event. At this stage what would be most important is not the precise timing of the appointment of the CDM co-ordinator but whether health and safety was adequately considered, at all stages, and whether the designer and the CDM co-ordinator made sure that that reviews where taken at appropriate stages.

I haven’t found any reference to ‘intention to build’, but if a building never proceeded to construction, and no preliminary work was done (e.g. surveying or site preparation) it would be unlikely that the HSE would launch a prosecution. Intention is often considered in law but I suspect that the expression ‘intention to build’ was mentioned somewhere discussion and that it took on more weight than it warrants.

Posted in Health and safety, Uncategorized | 6,027 Comments

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Interruptions, productivity and technology

I seem to have less time than ever to get on with things and I’ve wondered how much technology has had to do with it. IT’s benefits are clear, more access to more information, better quality of presentation, more communication and sharing of ideas and so on. But there’s a cost too – there’s always more information to be found and one can go on and on editing and adding additional images or other ways of enriching documents such as presentations; it’s also too easy to get distracted. The ruthlessly single minded cope but the rest of us struggle.

An article in New Scientist “How Interruptions Can Destroy Your Day” Alison Motluk, 28 June 2006 confirms my perception. She cites a University of California at Irvine, study which found that on average information workers being studied ‘got just three sustained minutes of work in before being diverted’. And ‘Glenn Wilson at the Institute of Psychiatry in London found that being bombarded with emails and phone calls has a greater effect on IQ than smoking marijuana (New Scientist, 30 April 2005 p 6)’. A psychiatrist is quoted as saying that in the last few years he is seeing an increase in people who claim to have developed attention deficit disorder in adulthood – ‘patients complain that they are distracted, forgetful, disorganised and impulsive – and they can’t get anything done … the symptoms mysteriously disappear when they are on holiday’. Sounds familiar!
The article goes on to introduce software being developed by Microsoft. ‘Priorities’ is designed to examine salience and urgency of emails and phone calls to prioritise and allow interruptions only as programmed. It learns by observation and training. Eric Horovitz, a senior Microsoft researcher comments “It works extremely well at discriminating the urgent from the non-urgent .. it’s better than a live secretary.” Another project described tries to predict a person’s interruptability. Related Microsoft research produced a device, Busybody, which “spies on you, taking note of things like head position and activity level. It then pools information to help decide whether you are in a state to receive any non-urgent communications.”

The article includes eight ‘tips for surfing the wave of interruptions’, including
· “Get a bigger monitor (more on this in a posting to follow). A Microsoft study found it helped people to work up to 44 per cent faster – one of the biggest boosts to productivity yet.” Having read this I’ve set up a 17” monitor to work as a ‘single’ desktop in conjunction with my laptop screen (very simple to do using the screen settings). This allows my primary focus, such working on a Word document, to remain on the monitor while other programmes I might turn to briefly, such a email or browser, appear on the laptop screen; if I want to spend time on the other application it can be dragged from the laptop to the monitor. Feels like magic to begin with!

· “Put up a clear “do not disturb” sign, or an obvious signal that you are busy. Insist that colleagues respect it.”
· “Be prepared: if an interruption is likely to take longer than 2 minutes, add it you your to-do list and go back to what you were already doing.”
· “Keep a notebook open and write down what you are doing as soon as you are interrupted.”

The theme of interruptions, productivity and technology will be continued in another posting and will refer, inter alia, to Clive Thompson’s “Meet the Life Hackers” New York Times, 16 October 2005 which covers similar material to the New Scientist article but in more detail. Also www.43folders.com (Merlin Mann’s site about ‘personal productivity, life hacks, and simple ways to make your life a little better’)

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Quotes from Rick Altman’s web article on ‘reciting your slides’

Quotes from: Rick Altman (2005) The Golden Triangle: Presenter, Audience and Slides, ‘Presenters University’, www.presentersuniversity.com

“…. Reciting your slides: If bad animation is the most inhibitive to connecting with your audience, this one is a close second. This creates any or all of the following impressions: 1) You did not prepare; 2) You are incapable of communicating an original thought; and 3) You have doubts that your audience members are smart enough to be able to read the slide on their own.

These are not exactly the things you meant to convey when you found yourself reciting each bullet, word for word, in front of a room full of people. But the problem is that it’s quite hard to avoid it. When something appears on screen, it’s all-too-easy to treat it like a script. Your mission as you prepare your bullet points is to make it practically impossible to do that.

Let’s say that you are creating a presentation on this very topic. Here are the points you want to make:

Bullets are at their best when they…

· Give the audience more substance than if they are just listening to you

· Help guide the audience through your topics

· Show them the logical progression of your ideas

If you display this verbose slide and then read it aloud, you do nothing to engender confidence with your audience. And you will sound like a drone. So instead, create bullets that do not compel you to commit droneage. What if you displayed this instead:

The three reasons to use bullets:

· 1 + 1 = 3

· I need a map and I need it now!

· Breadcrumbs are an audience’s best friend

These bullets are imaginative, effectively vague, and coy. Moreover, they will not compel you to recite them word for word, although if you did, it wouldn’t be as bad as with the verbose slide, because you would obviously elaborate about each point. With the coy bullets, you have no choice but to turn to the audience and state your case.

And when you’re done stating your case, then you can replace the coy slide with the verbose one (using a nice fade, of course!), so that you give them the visual of your idea. In fact, how bad would it be if, before displaying the verbose slide, you recited it word for word? Not too bad, actually—reciting bullets before they appear is not nearly as bad as doing it afterward. You tell your audience that you have given thought to an effective way to present the idea, you don’t drone, and you don’t risk insult to their intelligence.

Everyone knows that it is not wise to recite bullets aloud, but not as many realize that it’s hard not to. It’s worth the extra effort to create bullets that don’t turn you into a drone.”

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