12th October, 2021

Does CDM Apply To Landscaping Work?

Is landscaping work classed as construction work? And does CDM apply? The CDM regulations apply to all construction projects, no matter how long (or short). But in what circumstances does CDM include landscaping, and what do you need to do to comply?

Does CDM Apply To Landscaping Work? header image

If you work in construction, you need to know about CDM. The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM) apply to all construction projects. It doesn't matter if your project lasts a month or a day. Or if you are working on a commercial project or in someones home. If you do any construction work, CDM applies.

But are landscaping works or groundworks construction projects? And does CDM apply?

At first, you might think that none of this applies if you work in landscaping. After all, your not building anything. And you're not knocking anything down either.

The definition of construction work is pretty wide under CDM. And there are times when landscaping almost certainly comes under CDM.

“construction work” means the carrying out of any building, civil engineering or engineering construction work and includes—

  1. the preparation for an intended structure, including site clearance, exploration, investigation (but not site survey) and excavation (but not pre-construction archaeological investigations), and the clearance or preparation of the site or structure for use or occupation at its conclusion;
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Interpretation

So, when landscaping works are involved in the preparation of a site for an intended structure, then CDM will apply. And also when the landscaping work is involved at the end of a project, in preparation for use or occupation of the site.

excavating for a structure

When the work is part of a construction project, CDM requirements will usually get managed by the principal contractor. The landscaping contractor will have contractor CDM duties and must comply with the site rules and cooperate with the principal contractor, principal designer and other CDM duty holders.

But what about landscaping works carried out on their own? Where no building is being constructed, and there are no other contractors involved?

You might think that CDM would not apply in these situations. Maybe not in terms of some soft landscaping and gardening activities.

However, hard landscaping (work on the structure of the garden or grounds) would almost certainly come under the definition of construction work under CDM. Why? Because the term structure does not just apply to buildings. Let's take a look at the definition of a structure under CDM...

“structure” means...

  1. any building, timber, masonry, metal or reinforced concrete structure, railway line or siding, tramway line, dock, harbour, inland navigation, tunnel, shaft, bridge, viaduct, waterworks, reservoir, pipe or pipeline, cable, aqueduct, sewer, sewage works, gasholder, road, airfield, sea defence works, river works, drainage works, earthworks, lagoon, dam, wall, caisson, mast, tower, pylon, underground tank, earth retaining structure or structure designed to preserve or alter any natural feature and fixed plant;
  2. any structure similar to anything specified in paragraph (a);
  3. any formwork, falsework, scaffold or other structure designed or used to provide support or means of access during construction work,
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Interpretation

So preparation and construction of waterworks, river works, walls, earth retaining structures and altering natural features. These are all structures under CDM. And work on them, or for them, comes under construction work.


How can landscapers comply with CDM?

Now you know when CDM applies to your landscaping work, you might be wondering what you need to do to comply. In the cases where CDM does apply to your project, as a landscaping contractor, you will have legal duties under CDM.

Where you are the sole contractor or working under a principal contractor as part of a bigger project, you will need to comply with contractor duties (see our free guide to CDM contractor duties).

If you will be using subcontractors, a principal contractor will need to be appointed. If that's you, you'll need to carry out the duties of the principal contractor (see our free guide to CDM principal contractor duties).

Where you are also responsible for some or all of the design work for the project, you will have CDM designer duties (see our free guide to CDM designer duties). If there are multiple contractors, this will mean that a principal designer needs to be appointed by the client. If that's you, you'll also need to carry out the duties of the principal designer (see our free guide to CDM principal designer duties).

Whatever your CDM role, you need to make sure that the client is aware of their duties under CDM, and ensure that the project is notified if necessary.

design drawing

A common-sense CDM approach

If you are new to CDM, hearing about appointments, notifications, and legal duties can all sound a little scary. So let's take a step back here and remember that the purpose of CDM is to improve safety.

You will already be doing most of the things you need to do to comply with CDM. Like planning how to carry out your work safely, communicating with the client and other contractors, and assessing risks.

The HSE has advised that where good health and safety practice is being followed the differences between a project where the CDM Regulations apply and one where they do not are likely to be minimal.

The CDM documents you create for your project should be proportionate to the project. So, if it's not relevant to the landscaping work you are carrying out, then it shouldn't be included in your paperwork. But if it could improve safety, then it should be included.

For example, when you are gathering pre-construction information from the client, information on underground services is going to help make sure you don't get any unexpected surprises during the work. This information should be included. And you probably would check this sort of information anyway, it's just that under CDM, it becomes a more specific requirement.

Remember, everyone involved in construction work has CDM roles and responsibilities. Use our free CDM compliance checklist to help your projects comply.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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