Health & Safety Information Update

Some clarification on what constitutes maintenance work under CDM

If you read the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015 it implies that maintenance work is included in CDM and for such jobs a Construction Phase Plan would need to be produced 

The legal interpretation

Maintenance and repair are referred to in CDM 2015’s definition of construction work as follows (our italics):

  • (a) “the construction, alteration, conversion, fitting out, commissioning, renovation, repair, upkeep, decoration 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”, and at
  • (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.”  

 A “structure” is then defined widely as:

  • (a) “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, sewerage 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” 
  • (b) “any structure similar to anything in paragraph (a)”
  • (c) “any formwork, falsework, scaffold or other structure designed or used to provide support or means of access during construction work.
There has been little official interpretation of these clauses. The HSE has so far declined to publish an approved code of practice to the new regulations. The general guidance, L153 (, doesn’t expand on the definition.

This part vacuum has left many dutyholders, from hotel owners and housing associations to manufacturers and logistics companies, wondering which maintenance and repair work falls under CDM 2015 even a year after the regulations came into effect. The breadth of the definition led some dutyholders to wonder whether cleaning a surface with bleach might fall within the regulations, since it involves a toxic substance.

The simple answer
The maintenance project/activity must fall within one or more of the three categories set out in the definition, those being the carrying out of any:
  • building
  • civil engineering or
  • engineering construction work*
If the activity falls within any of these three categories, CDM 2015 does apply. If the activity does not fall into any of the three categories, CDM 2015 does not apply

The HSE’s perspective

IoSH have asked HSE for clarification on what constitutes maintenance and repair under CDM. It provided the general statement that “where maintenance activity involves construction processes, requires construction skills and uses construction materials, it is most likely to fall within the term ‘construction work’.

General maintenance of fixed plant which mainly involves mechanical adjustments, replacing parts or lubrication is unlikely to be construction work.”


  • Hotel maintenance. The HSE confirmed that activities including servicing a boiler or lifts, and odd jobs such as door, floor or carpet repairs, would not generally fall under CDM for the same reasons.
  • Utilities business maintenance. Meter repair work, cleaning solar panels, switching activities in an electrical substation or fault detection work on an electrical or gas network would also be exempt if they are separate from a construction project. Of course, engineering projects or new builds would It is useful to have the executive’s interpretation to show a zealous local authority environmental health officer still fall under the HSE definition, so planned outages for repairs or undergrounding cables would be caught.
  • Office facilities management. The HSE confirmed that activities including pressure washing premises’ steps, fixed wiring inspections and the use of mechanical floor washers would not generally fall under CDM. However, they would if they were carried out in conjunction with construction work.
Finally, the HSE were asked whether it had any further advice or ideas for businesses looking at their CDM compliance obligations in relation to maintenance, repair, upkeep and cleaning? In short, its response was that CDM should be considered a framework through which dutyholders can manage risk and should provide flexibility and minimise bureaucracy.

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