On 6th April the 2015 CDM Regulations arrived.  For ground investigations, there is no further clarity on the applicability of CDM.  Ground investigation providing design data for a development/structure definitely falls under CDM.  However, does ground investigation which is not associated with a structure, i.e. for due diligence or environmental regulation purposes, fall under CDM?  This is a grey area.

HSE guidance L153 Section 2 states:

“construction work” means the carrying out of any … civil engineering … work and includes paragraph (b)): “the preparation for an intended structure, including … exploration, investigation (but not site survey) and excavation (but not pre-construction archaeological investigations),…”

Worst case this means that any excavation including trial pitting could be deemed to be ‘civil engineering’ under CDM, although it begs the question how different is a trial pit for contamination sampling compared to a pit for archaeological investigation, which is exempt?  Discussions with H&S specialists and with HSE inspectors on the applicability of CDM to ground investigations has indicated various interpretations, with specialists erring towards CDM applying, but an HSE inspector suggested that site investigation, not associated with a definite building or construction, would be classed as survey work. The interpretation hasn’t been tested legally either way.

Taking the ‘safe’ default position that an excavated  hole is ‘civil’ engineering’, that puts most ground investigations under CDM, although less stand-alone investigations would become notifiable projects under the raised  barrier of the 2015 Regs, i.e.  longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers simultaneously; or  exceed 500 person days.  The ‘Notifiable’ or not question has less impact in the 2015 Regs, as it is no longer triggers a different level of management.

As most geotechnical consultants and SI contractors do not usually adopt the role of CDM, the elimination of that role under CDM 2015 is not a direct impact.  However, now  that  effectively all CDM projects will likely have the architect or structural engineer as the principal designer, we should find that H&S coordination should happen much better up front at the investigation stage. This should be a bonus, especially for obtaining pre-works information.  The Principal Contractor (PC) and Contractor roles still exist under CDM 2015.  However, the PC role is NOT now triggered by the project being notifiable.

In many cases the company undertaking the ground investigation will be required to take on the role of PC, at least for the duration of the investigation, (assuming more than one trade involved). However, beware the situation with a domestic client, where the ground investigation contractor could also be taking on Client duties by default. In this situation, I suggest requesting such Clients to formally appoint the PD to perform the Client duties, for consistency across the project lifetime.  These clients are often building domestic basements and there are significant associated risks, which would benefit from a consistent and integrated approach to safety, without swapping of responsibilities between PCs as the project progresses.

The emphasis in the 2015 Regulations is that H&S planning is proportionate.  Therefore, whilst a construction phase plan (CPP) will be required for each investigation, it can be several paragraphs or several chapters, so long as it is specific, relevant and sufficient. CDM 2015 appears to see no place for excessive bureaucracy, but what can easily get missed is closing the information loop. Don’t forget the final investigation report will probably be required to form part of the H&S file for the site.

So having noted that above, what does CDM 2015 really mean in terms of changes?   Effectively, if site investigation works were being properly planned and managed before, then not a great deal. The message from CDM 2015, as I see it, is to integrate health and safety management so it is simple and keeps everything safe, and that compliance with the Regs is not an end in itself.

Reference: Ground Engineering, April 2015, Jo Strange