The CDM Regulations and ECO4 / Decarbonisation

Do the Regulations apply?


In order to determine whether the Construction (Design and Management) 2015 Regulations apply to your projects, you need to ask yourself two questions:

  • Are you carrying out ECO 4 / Decarbonisation works?
  • Is there more than one contractor on the project?

If yes to one or both, you will need to be compliant with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.

But we are not a construction company?

How and why should these regulations apply to me?

CDM Regulations & ECO4 Decarbonisation

The above regulations are well known in the construction industry, but if you work in utilities, you might not be so familiar with them. They are often referred to as the CDM Regulations or CDM 2015.

Below, we explain how the CDM Regulations relate to the utilities industry and become fully compliant with the regulations.

What are the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015?

The latest edition of the CDM Regulations now apply to all construction work, regardless of the industry, scale, and duration of work. This latest edition of the CDM Regulations came into force on April 6th, 2015 and now include many activities that could be relevant to your projects under ECO 4 / Decarbonisation.

So, what exactly is ‘Construction Work’ under the CDM 2015 Regulations?

The definition of construction work under CDM Regulations is quite broad.

It states:

“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, de-commissioning, demolition or dismantling of a structure;

(b) the preparation for an intended structure, including site clearance, exploration, investigation, and excavation), 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.

What is the purpose of the CDM Regulations?

The aim of the CDM Regulations is simple. It is to improve safety in the construction industry by:

  • Planning the work in a sensible manner so that risks are identified and managed right through from initial design to completion, maintenance, and eventual demolition.
  • Ensuring that competent personnel/companies are employed for the various tasks.
  • Co-operating and co-ordinating the works with all stakeholders to ensure a safe project at all times.
  • Ensuring that the correct information about safety risks is available to those that need it and is managed.
  • Communicating the above information on risks effectively to those who need to know.
  • Consulting and engaging with workers about risks and how they are managed.

So how does this relate to ECO4 and Decarbonisation works?

Some utilities work is easily recognised as ‘construction work’ such as infrastructure for electricity, gas, water, sewage and communication services i.e. telephone and internet.

But other works, especially in ECO4 and decarbonisation works in residential properties can include such elements as air source heat pumps, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, External Wall Insulation, Internal wall & floor insulation etc.

Certain types of maintenance works may also be classed as construction.

What must I now do to comply with these regulations?

The CDM Regulations outline the responsibilities of different parties involved in construction projects whether you are a client, Principal Contractor, Principal Designer etc.

How do I know which roles apply to me?

If you are unsure of your role(s) then it may be an idea to appoint a good CDM advisor who will be able to provide guidance and support in understanding and complying with the duties outlined in the requirements.

Appointing a good CDM advisor will be able to assist you throughout the project lifecycle, ensuring compliance with health and safety requirements. They can assist with checking the competency of designers and contractors, assisting with paperwork and appointments, compiling pre-construction information, conducting safety inspections, reviewing management arrangements, assisting with risk assessments and method statements, attending meetings, and reviewing O&M manuals and the Health and Safety file. By appointing a competent and experienced CDM advisor, the client can save time, mitigate risk, and ensure compliance with regulations and health and safety laws.


What Roles under the CDM Regulations will apply to me?

If you are carrying out works on ECO4 / Decarbonisation works, under the CDM Regulations you may be a Client, Principal Contractor, Principal Designer, or Designer. Each one of these has certain duties that they must discharge under the CDM Regulations, some of which are briefly outlined below:


  • Make suitable arrangements for managing the project.
  • Ensure that there’s a competent principal designer and principal contractor appointed.
  • Provide pre-construction information to designers and contractors.
  • Ensure that the project is carried out safely and without risks to health.
  • Ensure that the health and safety file is prepared and maintained.

Principal Designer:

  • Plan, manage, monitor, and coordinate health and safety during the pre-construction phase.
  • Identify and eliminate or control foreseeable risks.
  • Liaise with the client and other duty-holders to ensure cooperation and coordination.
  • Prepare and provide relevant health and safety information to other duty holders.

Principal Contractor:

  • Plan, manage, monitor, and coordinate health and safety during the construction phase.
  • Prepare a construction phase plan and implement it.
  • Ensure cooperation and coordination among contractors and workers.
  • Manage and control site health and safety risks.
  • Provide information to the principal designer for the health and safety file.


  • Eliminate, reduce, or control health and safety risks associated with their designs.
  • Provide information about their design decisions and any hazards they’ve identified.
  • Cooperate with other designers, the principal designer, and the principal contractor.

This is where the appointment of a good CDM advisor will be a good investment to ensure the smooth running of the project and full compliance with the CDM and other applicable legislation.

Be aware that you could be responsible for one or more roles on certain projects where you will have to take on the duties outlined above.

Clients may wish to carry out their own works so they can be Client and Principal Contractor. Principal Contractors may also be Principal Designer and they usually appoint a CDM advisor to help them during the project.

The key thing to note in all of this is competency. Whoever is appointed to any role under the CDM Regulations must be competent to carry out that role.

Again, this is where appointing a good and experienced CDM advisor will pay dividends.

Are the CDM Regulations a simple paperwork and ‘tick box’ exercise?

No, they are not!

Adopting a tick box / lowest cost approach to managing health and safety at work can be costly for businesses in financial terms as well as reputational damage. This certainly applies to the CDM Regulations.

Competency is key.

Whatever roles various personnel or organisations take under CDM must be competent to carry out those roles. This applies to appointing various duty holders such as Principal Contractors, Principal Designers, Designers, etc.


Appointing a CDM Advisor

Appointing a CDM advisor should be based on competency and experience in the types of work that are being carried out. Avoid appointing CDM advisors based purely on the cheapest price.

A good CDM advisor will be actively involved and fully engaged during the project acting on your behalf. A tick-box approach where the CDM advisor just checks paperwork will not provide you with the help and guidance that is needed. This tick-box approach could leave you open to legal issues such as fines and even imprisonment.

What are the risks of non-compliance with the CDM Regulations?

Failure to comply with CDM is a criminal offence so it is vital to ensure that duties are fulfilled. The Sentencing Council introduced new sentencing guidelines in 2016 that brought with them harsher penalties and fines available to the courts for organisations who do not manage health and safety matters effectively. In 2018/2019, the average health and safety fine rose to £150,000 — the highest it’s ever been — and a total of £54.5 million worth of fines were issued. The largest fine to date is £800,000. Individuals have also been sentenced to imprisonment for non-compliance with the regulations.

These fines and imprisonments are applicable to all construction projects regardless of size, complexity or duration. It applies to new build, refurbishment, retrofit, maintenance and demolition.

Need Further Advice?

Need further advice on any of the issues highlighted in the above article?

Are you looking to appoint a CDM advisor or Principal Designer?

If so, just contact us at:


Phone:  Swansea: 01792 797833