Building Designer, CDM and Contractor

  • Building Design Expert
  • 6 years ago

The contract could perhaps have a better start, and some may even argue that the writing was already appearing on the wall that formed the eastern site boundary. It was a bright sunny day, the staff had left the car park empty at the contractor’s request (under health and safety) because he had arranged to have the steelwork delivered later that morning. A pneumatic hoist would install it through a designated site access window at first floor. He had been asked to remove the window to avoid any potential damage to the frame and sliding sash mechanism, but this hadn’t happened.

The architectural consultant, aka CA as far as the building contract was concerned, had arrived a little early, complete with all PPE – boots, hi-viz jacket and hard hat. The contractor was in his van with his consultant health and safety advisor having a last minute briefing. Dotting a few last ‘i’s and crossing a perhaps missed ‘t’, at least that’s what the CA assumed. He had no reason to think otherwise. Both the contractors consultant and the project CDM Co-ordinator had both confirmed all the contractors training and paperwork were up to date in all the right places.

Both men left the van and went to greet the CA. The H and S consultant complete with similar PPE to that of the CA, and the contractor with a neat comb over, open necked shirt and some very ‘sunday morning’ suede garden loafers. The writing on that wall was getting bigger.

Apparently the contractor had just taken his grandson to school and had a complete change of clothes in the van; boots, hat and all. The CA was keen to see the steel delivery and agreed to return just after lunch, when it had been scheduled.

The project was non notifiable under CDM regulations, as it was programmed to last no more than twenty one days, and was most unlikely to exceed the other threshold of five hundred person hours. However, knowing the client well the CA had elected to recommend that the client retain a CDMC, as after the structural alterations were complete staff were to return to carry on working. So whilst it was not a legal requirement, for the nominal cost involved a bit of enhanced H and S monitoring would not go amiss.

The CA answered the office telephone just before lunch. The voice on the other end was the client’s appointed health and safety officer, who doubled up as admin secretary. In a slightly panicky tone she relayed how she had just witnessed the main supporting steel beam being man handled, by the main contractor, his electrician and a beefy assistant. With the aid of a length of rope, the access scaffold tower and a strategically placed bath towel which helped the bottom flange of the 4.6m long ‘H’ section steel beam slide more easily over the bottom rail of the sliding sash window, the steel had been ‘Delivered’. “Wasn’t that window supposed to be taken out?” she asked. If that writing on the wall had been red, at this stage it might have been mistaken for blood. Who’s? Not sure.

The contractor was a little difficult to get hold of at first. His mobile just rang out. He eventually returned the CA’s call. Maybe he thought if he left it the CA may have calmed down, but then again why did he think he might be upset? The riot act is a very long winded, wordy legal document; full of all sorts of jargon and specialist references. Most of it probably went over the contractors head, but he did understand the swear words, and it certainly had the two fold effect of making the CA feel better, and more importantly leaving the contractor in no doubt that if EVER he pulled a stunt like that again it would be the last time he took part in this project. So of course everyone was now clear. The CA had redrawn the line that the contractor had crossed with a much thicker and darker pen, and the contractor had taken off his sunglasses so hopefully he could see it. Right, now the job could proceed – with caution.

The CA was a little surprised to hear from the client’s H and S officer the following week, when the staff had returned to occupy the rest of the building. “I’ve just been up to the 1st floor and there are no signs warning of a building site. They haven’t protected the carpet, and that window has still not been taken out”, she said.

The CA arranged to meet with the CDMC on site the following day. An impromptu H and S audit read:

  • No site personnel wearing protective foot wear or hard hats
  • No face masks, or protective goggles worn during demolition
  • Visitors to site are not being inducted. The CA asked to be inducted and was actually refused. The contractor thought he was joking
  • Dust is being allowed to penetrate into other building areas and is causing a nuisance to the office staff
  • The main contractor is failing to provide adequate site supervision at all times
  • The main contractor is working at height on unsecured trestles and loose scaffold boards, without any guarding
  • Entry to the site from within the building is not protected, and does not have warning signs

The words on the wall were getting larger and beginning to glow.

Emails flew. The main contractor didn’t do email. So that’s something else on the list of stuff he didn’t do then. At least he didn’t do it very well. It seems it was taught as an add-on module to his health and safety course, and his abilities for both were becoming painfully clear.

The H and S officer confirmed the following day that warning signs had now been posted to the internal site entrance within the main building. “I don’t think he’s going to take out that window is he?” she also said.

The CA made almost daily appearances, as after ten days the programme was five days behind. He thought about what he might do if he left the profession? Pushing water up hill sprang to mind. On returning to the office he asked the contractors H and S consultant if he wouldn’t mind carrying out his own audit some time very soon. The following day the report read:

  • No site personnel wearing protective foot wear or hard hats
  • No face masks, or protective goggles worn during demolition
  • The main contractor is failing to provide adequate site supervision at all times
  • The main contractor is working at height on unsecured trestles and loose scaffold boards, without any guarding

This was more than enough. The CA had balanced monitoring the contractor and his progress, against the client’s need to have the works satisfactorily completed, and decided that neither was going to happen.

Turning up at site around lunch time, the CA asked the young lad carrying a bucket full of rubble out to the skip where the contractor was. “Don’t know. He’s just gone out to get some stuff”. The CA tried and failed to raise him on his mobile. So it was a matter of informing the young lad and the electrical sub-contractor, who had just arrived, that under the terms of the contract he would be terminating that contract for lack of diligent progression of the works, and continued flagrant disregard of Health and Safety issues previously raised.

The CA arranged for one of the unsuccessful tenderers to come to site and complete the works, starting the following day. The first contractor arrived back at site later that afternoon. The young lad was sat on the east boundary wall outside and said he needed a lift. He jumped down and the writing was there for all to see.

The CA met the new contractor early the following morning. What a sight for sore eyes: Seven, or was it eight men. All with high viz vests, safety boots and hard hats. As the CA stepped across the site entrance threshold the foreman informed him that he had already carried out his own audit of the work carried out, and what was left to be done. But before the CA was allowed any further he had to sign in and under-go a site induction. “Willingly” he said.

The works were completed a week late, with a two item snag list. Of course there was also the first floor window to repair and the east boundary wall to clean

The CA had a contractual mess to unpick. But strangely enough the client was happy, particularly as all had ended well.

Based upon a true story.