The O&M Manual And How It's Different To The Health And Safety File header image

19th September, 2019

The O&M Manual And How It's Different To The Health And Safety File

The O&M manual and the health and safety file are two documents you are going to need on most construction projects. Both documents are needed at project completion. And, there may even be some overlap in the contents. But these are two different documents. Sometimes supplied together, sometimes provided apart.

Confused? You're not alone. We often get asked, what is the difference between the O&M manual and the health and safety file?

In a nutshell, the O&M manual contains information on the operation and maintenance of the building. The health and safety file contains health and safety information for the future use and maintenance of the building.

Still none the wiser? Let's take a more detailed look and get to the bottom of these two similar, but different documents!

What is an O&M manual?

The O&M manual, or operation and maintenance manual, is a bit like the owners manual you get with your car. Except, it's for a building or structure. Some people even call it the building owners manual. It's not a health and safety specific document, but it may contain some health and safety information. Or certainly, information that would help from a health and safety point of view.

So when do you need to supply an O&M manual? The requirement to provide operation and maintenance information is usually included within the building contract, especially on larger projects. For example, in the JCT standard building contract, you will find a clause requiring the contractor to provide "related information as may be specified in the Contract Documents or as the Employer may reasonably require" and "concerning the maintenance and operation... including any installations forming part of it".

The information required for the O&M manual will vary depending on the type of project and work involved. Typical contents of an O&M manual may include:

  • Details of the project and type of construction
  • As-built drawings in an agreed format
  • Services plans
  • Asset register
  • Instructions for operation and maintenance
  • Manufacturers instructions
  • Copies of guarantees and warranties
  • Fire, gas and electrical certificates
  • Commissioning and testing results and certificates
  • Completion certificates
  • Planned maintenance schedule

Because of the number of people that usually work on a construction project, different trades, doing different work, the O&M manual is usually a collection of documents and information from various contractors.

And if the requirement to provide an O&M manual is not in the building contract? Well, it will probably still be expected. It's good practice to handover the manuals and information you collect during the job. Your client may need to refer to it, especially for operating equipment that has been installed. It's also helpful to have that information to hand if you, or anyone else, comes back to do further work or maintenance in the future.

filing paperwork
The O&M manual is a building owners manual

What is the health and safety file?

So now we know what the O&M manual is, and how it makes sense to supply that information to the client. But what about the health and safety file, what's that all about?

The health and safety file is a document required under the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (also known as CDM). This document is legally required under CDM, a set of health and safety regulations that apply to every construction project.

...the principal designer must prepare a health and safety file appropriate to the characteristics of the project which must contain information relating to the project which is likely to be needed during any subsequent project to ensure the health and safety of any person.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Regulation 12

The health and safety file, as the name suggests, is a document that is specific to health and safety. Like the O&M manual, the health and safety file is focused on providing information to the client. Information needed for the future use, maintenance, cleaning of the building, and any future projects. Unlike the O&M manual, the health and safety file just contains information specific to health and safety. What's safe, and what hazards they should be aware of.

Typical contents of the health and safety file:

  • Project description and team
  • Hazards that remain e.g. ground conditions, asbestos, fragile materials and other hazards
  • Safe working loads and structural information
  • Details of any hazardous materials used
  • Health and safety information relating to operation and maintenance
  • Health and safety information relating to removal or dismantling
  • Location of services e.g. hidden services
  • As-built drawings

Find out more about what you should include in the CDM health and safety file.

(7) During the project, the principal contractor must provide the principal designer with any information in the principal contractor’s possession relevant to the health and safety file, for inclusion in the health and safety file.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Regulation 12

Under CDM, the health and safety file is put together by the principal designer, and not the contractor. The principal contractor must pass any health and safety specific information from the work and the O&M manual to the principal designer. This information will be reviewed and compiled into the health and safety file for handover to the client.

principal designer
The principal designer puts the health and safety file together

What are the differences?

Legal Requirements

The health and safety file is required by law under the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations. The O&M manual is usually a requirement of the building contract.

Information

The O&M manual contains all the operation and maintenance information for the building. The health and safety file just contains information relevant to health and safety.

Size

The health and safety file will usually be smaller because it is just focused on health and safety. It doesn't need to contain all of the manuals, plans, and certificates from the O&M manual. It should only refer to the health and safety specific information.

Use

These two documents should serve two different purposes. If you need to know how to do something, or when to do it, you would look in the O&M manual. If you need to know if something is safe to do, or where a hazardous material is, you would look in the health and safety file.


Now you know about the differences between the O&M manual and the health and safety file. There are also some similarities and overlap of information. Where information is needed in both documents, you don't need to duplicate it. Information can be cross-referenced when relevant to both documents.

Use our free CDM duty holder guides to help you comply with CDM on your project. Just want help with your health and safety file? Get started with the CDM health and safety file template.

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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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