The Consultant’s Problem

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There is still a perception within the industry, and sadly, this includes some CDM-Co-ordinators (CDM-C), that it is not necessary to appoint a CDM-C or provide Pre-Construction Information (PCI) for the site investigation stage of a project.  Therefore, when we as Consultants/ Designers are appointed we are already on the back foot.  Experience tells of precious time on a project often lost while Designers/ Consultants try to persuade stakeholders, including CDM-C’s, that (intrusive) ground investigation works are considered “Construction works” and therefore the relevant CDM regulations apply.  Unfortunately, this is not being helped by the current aggressive nature of the market where it seems that some Consultants and Consultant/ Contractors will take on projects at the site/ ground investigation stage without the required CDM-C appointment and Pre-Construction Information to give them the edge on the competition.
The time taken to obtain full service records for a site (a key part of the PCI), before the design of ground investigation work can take place, can affect the progress of a project in both increased fees and programme.  Yes, there are “one-stop-shop” companies who will obtain the buried services information for a site, and yes they offer accelerated turn-around times for such services.  However, in the majority of cases the full service returns will not be received within 4 weeks.  Once received, the plans vary in scale, content, style and are rarely drawn accurately to scale.   Due to this the Designer is left with information which cannot be totally relied upon when designing the intrusive phase of ground investigation works (i.e. selecting that all important exploratory hole position).
Therefore, since “Every designer shall in preparing or modifying a design which may be used in construction work in Great Britain avoid foreseeable risks to the health and safety of any person…”, we advise the Stakeholders that either in advance of, or during the intrusive ground investigation site operations, further hazard elimination and management procedures be implemented.  Clearly, within the congested underground of the United Kingdom, buried services are a “foreseeable risk…”.   “Reasonably practicable” measures in order that we, as Designers, can either design out (manage) or eliminate such a risk, can include, but not be limited to:

  • Positive identification by utility companies.
  • Utility and service mapping services.
  • Vacuum excavation.

However, such measures have programme implications and additional costs which can often make them hard to incorporate in the project budget, despite the potential savings to the project that these hazard elimination and management measures can provide in reducing “risks to the health and safety of any person”, as well as the risk of significant cost and programme delays which can be incurred when buried services are struck.
Therefore, the biggest hurdle, facing the “competent” consultant/ designer is to convince the stakeholders that the consequence of encountering a buried service, either at intrusive ground investigation stage or main construction work stage, is worth the additional early cost.  As discussed earlier, this is currently against a backdrop of an increasingly competitive market place where consultants/ designers can be found who are willing to work with a higher risk and perhaps be less open with the Client as to the levels of risk the project is being exposed to.
Highlighting the consequence of the unexpected or accidental conflict/ encounter of buried services in any stage of a project should not only be within the health and safety risk assessments for activities on a project but also the Project Risk Register.  Once the consequences are clearly outlined to Stakeholders they should be more than aware of the importance of managing or mitigating the possibility of such an encounter.  There should be greater cross stakeholder collaboration, which should include the Principal Contractor, Contractor and Designer in addition to the Clients or Consultants, in the compilation of a comprehensive Project Risk Register.
There, must be joint agreement between both consultants and contractors as to the “reasonably practicable” means for eliminating or managing the risks associated with buried services.  As a result both consultants and contractors should agree not to proceed with projects until such “reasonably practicable” measures are implemented.  After all, within the CDM 2007 regulations all persons with a duty under the Regulations (including the Client) are to ensure that “the construction work can be carried out so far as is reasonably practicable without risk to the health and safety of any person;”