29th April, 2021
The CDM regulations put legal health and safety requirements on people involved in construction work. But what about maintenance work? Is it classed as construction work? What if only one person is involved? In this post, we see when and why CDM applies to maintenance work.
The CDM regulations is a legal requirement that applies to all construction work in Great Britain. CDM stands for the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, and these regulations cover specific health and safety management duties in construction work. The CDM regulations apply to all construction projects and all construction work. But what about maintenance work?
Is maintenance work even construction work? You are not necessarily building something new. It could result in little to no changes to the building or its services. After all, you are just maintaining what is already there. And maintenance work could be carried out by tradespeople and contractors. But it could also get taken care of by a handyman or a caretaker.
Luckily, the CDM regulations include a definition of construction work. This definition details what type of work the CDM regulations apply to, and we can check if maintenance is within that definition.
“construction work” means the carrying out of any building, civil engineering or engineering construction work and includes—
- the construction, alteration, conversion, fitting-out, commissioning, renovation, repair, upkeep, redecoration or other maintenance (including cleaning which involves the use of water or an abrasive at high pressure, or the use of corrosive or toxic substances), decommissioning, demolition or dismantling of a structure;
So yes, CDM does apply to maintenance work. Maintenance and repair fall clearly under the definition of construction work under CDM 2015.
Maintenance work is often short duration. Each task might only take a few minutes. So what about short-duration work, are there any exemptions under CDM for that?
Well, no. And at first, this may seem strange, but it is for a good reason. The maintenance work you are carrying out might be low risk. For example, if you are fixing a skirting board or tightening a bolt. But the task is not low risk because it will only take a moment to do. Cleaning a window 200m high or accessing a roof light might only take a moment, but these are high-risk activities. Falls from height are the biggest construction killer.
So no matter the duration of your work, CDM applies. There are no special exemptions for short duration or maintenance work, so the regulations apply in full.
You will still need to:
But compliance with the regulations should be proportionate. You would not need as extensive a construction phase plan for a small maintenance job, and the site set up might be more flexible, using existing welfare facilities, for example.
Check what your CDM duties are, and make sure your project complies with our free CDM compliance checklist.
And there are some parts of the regulations that may not apply to your maintenance work. For example, you may not need a principal contractor or principal designer if only one contractor is involved. And part 4 of the CDM regulations only applies to construction sites. So if you are carrying out maintenance work in an occupied building or outside of a construction site, part 4 does not apply. But more general health and safety regulations still apply, as they do to any workplace. You need to be risk assessing your work, and you must make sure that it gets done safely.
It is also unlikely that you will need to notify the HSE about your maintenance work because CDM notification thresholds only apply to projects over 30 days with more than 20 workers or over 500 person-days.
You still need to make sure you have all the necessary duties discharged before you start the work. Don’t forget, just because a project is small does not mean the risks are lower. And even if your work is under the need to notify the HSE, you still need to comply with the remaining CDM requirements.
The pre-construction information is just as important in maintenance work as any other project. Even if the task you are doing appears to be low risk, the environment could contain hidden hazards. Is there asbestos present, are there any hidden live services to be aware of, are there any fragile materials?
And making sure that work gets completed safely is just as important in maintenance work. Maybe even more so. On a construction site, the other people around you are usually familiar with the type of work you are doing. When you carry out maintenance work, you are not likely to be on a construction site. You will probably be working in occupied buildings. You may be working around people who are unfamiliar with construction work. You could be in their home or office. You might even be around vulnerable people if you work in places like hospitals or schools. These occupants are unlikely to have construction training, PPE, or construction hazard awareness. To protect people from harm, it is very important to plan the work carefully and manage risks.
When your maintenance work is for a domestic client, some client responsibilities get automatically transferred to the contractor, so be aware if you have some extra duties to consider.
If you need to know more about CDM, and your duties, check out our free CDM duty holder guides.
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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