You, Small Building Works and the CDM Regulations, 2015.

What do you know about CDM Regulations? Chances are if you work for a larger firm you will be more familiar with them and what your duties are under them. But what about if you do small, domestic projects? CDM doesn’t apply to you, right? Wrong! Our Health and Safety adviser, Chris Bowes, explains more.

Over the next couple of months I’m going to be writing articles/blogs for BTG about the CDM regulations 2015 – what they are, how they affect you and how you need to comply. The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 (CDM for short) are applicable to all types of construction work. Both commercial and domestic. There are different duty holders with specific legal duties attached to them. We will look at the different requirements and how they affect you, whether on large or small-scale projects. The Regulations got changed after a European directive and will stay in force after Brexit. CDM was in place prior to 2015 with the CDM 2007 regulations and changes were made to pick up smaller sites under the HSE notification threshold.

The first thing to look at is how the HSE under the CDM regulations describe construction. I think we’d all agree that the conversion of a doctor’s surgery, demolition of a block of flats, construction of a school or a housing development are the types of construction that are pretty obvious. But when it comes to small works? What about painting a stairwell, replacing windows, removing asbestos from a boiler room, plastering a room out, hanging doors or rewiring a house? Perhaps less obvious but these are seen as construction works under CDM 2015.

The HSE definition of construction work is as follows;

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

(a) 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), de-commissioning, demolition or dismantling of a structure;

(b) 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;

(c) the assembly on site of prefabricated elements to form a structure or the disassembly on site of the prefabricated elements which, immediately before such disassembly, formed a structure;

(d) the removal of a structure, or of any product or waste resulting from demolition or dismantling of a structure, or from disassembly of prefabricated elements which immediately before such disassembly formed such a structure;

(e) the installation, commissioning, maintenance, repair or removal of mechanical, electrical, gas, compressed air, hydraulic, telecommunications, computer or similar services which are normally fixed within or to a structure,

As you can see that’s a pretty wide ranging definition, so when somebody says “Does CDM apply to this job?” It probably does!!!

Once you’ve seen that CDM does apply to you and the work you do then you need to look at the duty holders. Virtually everybody involved in the construction process from conception to completion has a duty. We will look at the specific duties in more detail and how you can comply and what you can do on a day to day basis to comply.

The duty holders are;

Client – Anyone who has construction work carried out for them. The main duty for clients is to make sure their project is suitably managed, ensuring the health and safety of all who might be affected by the work, including members of the public. CDM 2015 recognises two types of client:

  • commercial clients have construction work carried out as part of their business. This could be an individual, partnership or company and includes property developers and companies managing domestic properties
  • domestic clients have construction work carried out for them but not in connection with any business – usually work done on their own home or the home of a family member. CDM 2015 does not require domestic clients to carry out client duties as these normally pass to other duty holders

Designer – An organisation or individual whose work involves preparing or modifying designs, drawings, specifications, bills of quantity or design calculations. Designers can be architects, consulting engineers and quantity surveyors, or anyone who specifies and alters designs as part of their work. This can also include tradespeople if they carry out design work. The designer’s main duty is to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction work, or in the use and maintenance of the building once built. Designers work under the control of a principal designer on projects with more than one contractor.

Principal designer – A designer appointed by the client to control the pre-construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal designer’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when most design work is carried out.

Principal contractor – A contractor appointed by the client to manage the construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal contractor’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when all construction work takes place.

Contractor – An individual or business in charge of carrying out construction work (eg building, altering, maintaining or demolishing). Anyone who manages this work or directly employs or engages construction workers is a contractor. Their main duty is to plan, manage and monitor the work under their control in a way that ensures the health and safety of anyone it might affect (including members of the public). Contractors work under the control of the principal contractor on projects with more than one contractor.

Worker – An individual who actually carries out the work involved in building, altering, maintaining or demolishing buildings or structures. Workers include: plumbers, electricians, scaffolders, painters, decorators, steel erectors and labourers, as well as supervisors like foremen and charge-hands. Their duties include cooperating with their employer and other duty holders, reporting anything they see that might endanger the health and safety of themselves or others. Workers must be consulted on matters affecting their health, safety and welfare.

As you can see everyone involved in the construction process has a duty and the regulations are prescriptive in what they say with absolute duties attached. If they say you must do something, it means you must!!

So that’s an introduction to the CDM Regulations, 2015. There’s quite a lot of information to take in, it covers everybody who might be involved in construction. Watch out for my next article, I’ll be looking in more detail at how CDM applies on a small or domestic project and what each duty holder must do in this scenario. If you have any queries in the meantime please contact me at [email protected], or visit my website

Stay Safe,


You can also download the Free CITB CDM Wizard, visit the CITB Website by clicking this link – and download the app free!

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