Is it time to do 'CDM Differently'?

CDM regulations may have been in force for over a quarter of a century, but that doesn’t mean that project teams across the board are clear on how to comply with them. Since the ‘CDM20-20 Vision – Changing The Culture’ report was published, professionals everywhere are finally starting to wonder if it’s time to do CDM differently

What is CDM Differently?

‘CDM Differently’ is a construction initiative in the UK, centred on the idea that construction risk must be managed primarily by construction professionals, using a collaborative approach. It encourages a focus on challenges related to specific projects, rather than in more general terms.

Jointly run by members of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), CDM Differently was inspired by Andrew Townsend’s book ‘Safety Can’t Be Measured’. In it, he demonstrated that there is a high degree of correlation between safety and high levels of productivity. In order to achieve both of these factors satisfactorily, there is a need to gain the commitment of the whole team and engage with them on achieving the project goals.

How do we do CDM Differently?

The regulations surrounding CDM first came into effect in 1995 and they’ve remained largely unchanged since then, despite multiple reviews. However, as time has gone on, the focus has shifted away from paperwork and legalities and moved towards a more cross-sector and synergetic approach.

Understanding how to comply with the law and the relevant health and safety laws is only the first step and it’s often one obstructed by the fragmented nature of the construction industry. If every construction professional only ever focuses on their specialism and their own experience or understanding of the process, then it will always remain disjointed. 

This is why ‘CDM Differently’ encourages a more joint-up mentality, with professionals from across the board contributing to one set of ideals. With each professional institution now being encouraged to take ownership of their own health and safety regulations, the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach is being rejected in favour of building a process around what your own people need.

Putting this into practice

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have each taken their own path when it comes to transforming these ideologies into reality. ICE operates a Health and Safety Register to enable engineering professionals to complete formal assessments to demonstrate their knowledge and experience, whereas RIBA use more of a workshop-based style, whereby architects are able to develop their existing skills to represent risk issues.

While the two bodies have adopted slightly different techniques, both of them believe that CDM is more than just complying with the law. Traditional attitudes to health and safety have very much centred on legal requirements, which has fostered a box-ticking culture that displaces a genuine concern for the risk to people’s safety.

By flipping this outlook on its head and putting real people back into the focus, ‘CDM Differently’ aims to advocate for communication, coordination and cooperation. Believing that every project and its team is different, CDM Differently encourages out of the box thinking to find a unique solution that fits the uniqueness of the project.


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