CDM for maintenance work and self-build projects


An Association for Project Safety spokesperson defines how the CDM2015 Regulations apply in both maintenance work and self-build projects…

The HSE recently passed us some CDM2015 questions and answers that they are using to ensure their inspectors are giving out the right messages when asked about interpretations on the new regulations. It was so comforting to read that all of those interpretations were identical to the advice APS have been giving out to their members and the public generally through their CDM Public Helpline service. With so much talk in the industry of the finer points of what the CDM2015 Regulations say and do not say, it is really important to be able to rely on a consistent and accurate message and know that if you don’t know the answer, then you know where to go to get it.

All of the HSE Q&A topics are relevant to the typical questions being asked within the industry but two of them are covered here.

Maintenance work

The definition of maintenance work has not changed from CDM2007. If the task in hand looks like construction work, requires construction skills and uses construction materials, it is construction work. General maintenance of fixed plant which mainly involves mechanical adjustments, replacing parts or lubrication is unlikely to be construction work. If the maintenance work is construction work, and there is only one contractor, no Principal Contractor (PC) or Principal Designer (PD) appointment is required. If more contractors are brought in, then a PC and PD need to be appointed for that particular project.

A term appointment for maintenance work by contract does not in itself trigger notification. CDM2015 requires ‘projects’ to be notified. If the term contract includes work which is deemed to be a single project, and the project lasts more than 30 days, and at any time during that period there are more than 20 workers on site at one time, or lasts 500 person days, then the project becomes notifiable by the client. Separate maintenance tasks carried out at separate locations, on separate buildings, do not automatically accumulate to form a single project. Note that notification is now a stand-alone duty; it does not trigger any other duties.

Whether the project is notifiable or not, as above, a PC is required for those projects where more than one contractor is, or is likely to be, involved. In these cases a PD should also be appointed, but a contractor (probably the PC) may well have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to act as PD in those cases where the design work, or pre-construction planning is straightforward.

A PC on smaller jobs needs to have a coordinating, planning, and managing role. The emphasis we expect is on management, not on direct supervision. It is the contractors’ duty to provide direct supervision.

A term-contractor may act as PC, if they have the skills, knowledge and experience, or the role can be given to a suitably qualified contractor who is brought in. This decision is in the gift of the client, who needs to take into account the risks of the work involved and the capabilities of his or her term contractor.

Self-Build Projects

There are a number of potential Self Build scenarios under CDM 2015. In all these scenarios the self-builder is a ‘domestic client’ if the structure they are building will be a residential home they will live in, and is not constructed in furtherance of a business. If the self- builder is carrying out the work for a business purpose, or to sell the property directly, then the self-builder is not a domestic client and the whole of CDM 2015 applies.

Some Self-Build scenarios:

The self-builder does it all himself, employs no contractors, and uses the structure constructed as a home to live in afterwards. This will be a DIY project because no one involved is ‘at work’ in the meaning of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The self-builder appoints an architect or designer as Designer or Principal Designer, (Principal Designer where there is likely to be more than one contractor engaged on the project) and appoints that person or business to take on the client duties on behalf of the self-builder. In this instance the Principal Designer may also be appointed as Principal Contractor, for the purpose of coordinating the construction phase, if that person or business has the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. It is likely that many traditional architects will have the necessary project management skills and experience to carry out this role. In this case the self-builder has no legal duties beyond the appointment of Principal Designer and Principal Contractor, although if they are not appointed, then the roles of the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor fall on the first Designer and Contractor (if more than one contractor is on site at any one time).

The self-builder employs a contractor to carry out construction work, and then appoints that contractor as PC for the duration of the project, because there is, or is likely to be, more than one contractor involved in the project. The emphasis will be on the coordination and management of the construction phase. In this case the self-builder again has no legal duties beyond the initial appointments of PD and PC. Note that Regulations (Regulation 7(2)) allows for the fact that the domestic Client may fail to make these appointments.

The self-builder acts as their own project manager, employing individual trades at different times. In this instance the self-builder steps out of the DIY arena, because they are taking control of construction work.

Where a self-builder controls the way in which construction work is carried out, by a person at work, they must comply with all the matters outlined in Part 4 of CDM 2015. This requirement is set out in Regulation 16 of CDM 2015, (which effectively replaces Reg 26 in CDM 2007). This is not a new requirement.

In this scenario the self-builder will in effect become a contractor. In this case HSE will expect self-builders to demonstrate sufficient health and safety capability to meet the requirements of Part 4 of CDM 2015. Individual contractors will be expected to be able to advise the self-builder on any specialist matters within their own work activities. HSE’s expectation of a self-builder in this position will be one of coordination and management, not of direct supervision of contractors on site. The self-builder is entitled to expect contractors to plan, manage and monitor their own work in compliance with CDM 2015.

Further information can be found at: The Self-Build Portal or via the APS website at

The Association for Project Safety

Tel: 0131 442 6600


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