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Debunking the myths of CDM 2015 for the Energy Transition

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) aim to improve health and safety in the UK construction industry. This is achieved by providing a framework and principles for managing construction project risk.

Over the years several myths have emerged around how CDM 2015 applies to projects. It is important to debunk these common myths to ensure the ongoing, effective management of risks associated with projects supporting the energy transition.

energy transition diagram

What is CDM 2015?

The UK’s CDM 2015 provides the main regulations that cover the management of health, safety and welfare on construction projects. First introduced in 1994, updated in 2007 and then again to the current 2015 version, they have enabled a significant reduction in construction related incidents.

These goal-setting regulations place responsibility on developers and owner-operators to ensure and demonstrate their assets are designed and developed to protect people throughout the lifecycle. CDM 2015 is not a box ticking exercise. It is about applying good practice risk management to deliver wide project benefits.

MYTH 1: It only relates to construction safety

The use of the word “construction” so prominently in the title of the regulations might explain this common misconception. It suggests that the focus is on reducing risks during the construction phase. In fact it is about driving designers to work together to deliver an overall asset design which protects anyone affected by the work.

energy transition diagram

Designers must consider the risk posed by the asset to individuals involved in its entire lifecycle. That is, during manufacture, transportation, construction, installation, testing and commissioning, use/operation and maintenance throughout the design life, and eventual decommissioning or disposal.

Designers are required to eliminate these risks through design or, where this is not possible, take steps to reduce or control the risks to acceptable levels. CDM 2015 is about ensuring the asset is safe by design (SBD) throughout its entire lifecycle.

MYTH 2: It only applies to traditional construction projects like houses or shopping centres

CDM 2015 covers all built structures or assets and hence such diverse facilities as electrical power generation and eco-fuel production. It is almost certain that any energy transition project will fall under CDM 2015 to some extent.

MYTH 3: It does not apply offshore

CDM 2015 does apply offshore. The regulations apply to all UK onshore and offshore (with certain clarifications) construction activities. This includes territorial waters (12 nautical miles from shore) and a range of activities: “the construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, maintenance, cleaning, use, operation, demolition and dismantling of any building, energy structure or other structure” (Ref. 1).

Offshore Wind

More specifically, the regulations apply to offshore renewable energy projects such as offshore wind farms, defined as “those harvesting energy from wind or water”. They apply both in the territorial sea and areas outside the territorial sea in the renewable energy zone defined by the Energy Act 2004 (Ref. 2).

MYTH 4: It is synonymous with health and safety management

CDM 2015 is about focusing on significant risks to people. The goal is to eliminate and reduce those risks by design, right from the concept phase of a project. This is different to most organisations’ health and safety management systems which tend to focus upon managing occupational health and safety risks during operations. The two approaches are complementary, not identical.

MYTH 5: It is only about safe by design

Whilst SBD is indeed a fundamental objective of CDM 2015, so too is ensuring that competent people and organisations are engaged at the right time and given sufficient time and resource to fulfil their roles and obligations.

CDM 2015 requires project planning, cooperation and coordination of the workforce. It seeks effective employment of skilled personnel for the right job at the right time. Risks must be assessed and communicated to workers, along with the necessary controls.

MYTH 6: It only applies to work done in the UK

With a global supply chain delivering the energy transition, it is likely that the design or manufacture of a major component (e.g. wind turbine) for an asset within the UK will be undertaken by a company operating somewhere else in the world.

However, regardless of where it is designed, any asset built and operated within the UK must be demonstrated to be safe by design throughout its lifecycle.

Whilst fabrication or construction activities outside of the UK will not be notifiable under CDM 2015, defects may be introduced which could pose risks to people later in the lifecycle of the asset when in UK territory. The principles of CDM 2015 thus apply.

There may be loopholes that can be used to argue that CDM 2015 does not apply to specific elements of a project, but that flies in the face of what the regulations are trying to achieve. CDM 2015 is about protecting people throughout the lifecycle of constructed structures in the UK. The approach should be baked into all project activities, irrespective of where and by whom they are performed.

MYTH 7: The environment is not applicable

Unlike the others, this myth is not a myth – it is true. The impact of construction project risks on the environment is not covered by CDM 2015. There are other laws such as the Environmental Protection Act (1990), enforced by the UK’s various environment agencies, that are in place for that purpose.

However, risks to people and the environment are often inextricably linked. For example, the same event may harm both people and the environment, and environmental harm may pose a risk to people. As a result, most organisations adopt integrated HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) risk management processes. Therefore, it makes sense to take a broad approach and view CDM 2015 as helping to protect the environment as well as people.


It is important to debunk the common myths about CDM 2015 because the regulations are likely to be applicable to almost all energy transition projects in the UK. There will be exceptions, for example large hydrogen projects, which may fall under specific safety regulations (Refs. 3, 4), but a clear understanding of the intent and scope of CDM 2015 will help to drive assets to be safer by design.

Moreover, CDM 2015 provides an effective framework for safely developing energy transition projects in any location worldwide where there are limited local requirements. It can therefore be used as a means of establishing a global strategy for multi-national developers to ensure a consistent approach to safety and risk across their portfolios.


  1. Article 8(1)(a) of The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (Application outside Great Britain) Order 2013.
  2. Section 84, Energy Act 2004.
  3. The Offshore Installations (Offshore Safety Directive) (Safety Case etc.) Regulations 2015.
  4. Control Of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 (COMAH).


Towards a unified approach – Guidance for applying CDM2015 to offshore wind
Towards a unified approach – Guidance for applying CDM2015 to offshore wind
Beyond borders – Comparing UK and Irish regulations for construction safety
Beyond borders – Comparing UK and Irish regulations for construction safety
CDM 2015 – The principles of a principled Principal Designer
CDM 2015 – The principles of a principled Principal Designer

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