Do CDM Regulations apply offshore?


If you are working in the onshore civil or structural engineering industry in the UK then a “sound knowledge” of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (“CDM2015”) is a must for becoming an Incorporated or Chartered Engineer.

For those whose projects lie in offshore work however, the rules are less well known. In fact, even in the 2015 James Rennie Medal final (also try this link if the first doesn't work), where the best newly-qualified Chartered Civil Engineers present their work, the last candidate, whose project about an offshore wind turbine, was asked about his duties under CDM2015.

He confidently asserted that CDM2015 did not apply, when unfortunately in his situation it did, and it was picked up by the judge. Had he said this in his Professional Review, this would violate the “sound knowledge of legislation” requirement of the Health and Safety Attribute and it would have almost certainly been an automatic fail…!


The Answer

So does CDM2015 apply offshore? It depends.

Why the uncertainty? CDM2015's applicability depends on certain factors, but primarily what the purpose of the offshore installation will be for.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (“HSWA1974”) is the overarching legislation behind all the civil engineering work in the UK, and CDM2015 is effectively instructs clients, designers and contractors how to implement HSWA1974.

The applicability of HSWA1974 is further extended by the The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (Application outside Great Britain) Order 2013 (“2013 Order”). This Act is implemented to include projects in:

  • “Territorial Waters”  – defined as 12 nautical miles from coastline in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and
  • “Designated Areas”  – as specified in Continental Shelf Act 1964.

Most importantly the 2013 Order makes distinct definitions for the different types of offshore structures between Articles 4 to 10.

4 – Oil and Gas installations

5 – Wells 

6 – Pipelines 

7 – Mines 

8 – Gas Importation and Storage 

9 – Production of Energy from Water or Wind 

10 – Underground Coal Gasification

CDM2015 offshore

CDM2015 is explicitly clear in its applicability. According to Regulation 3, (note the full names of the Legislations have replaced in square brackets according to the abbreviations defined above) :

Application in and outside Great Britain

3.  These Regulations apply—

(a)in Great Britain; and

(b)to premises and activities outside Great Britain to which sections 1 to 59 and 80 to 82 of the [HSWA1974] apply by virtue of articles 9 and 11(1)(a) of the [2013 Order].

Article 9 from the 2013 Order, as seen above, relates to the production of energy from water or wind.  Article 11 covers just about anything else in the 12 nautical mile boundary:

Other activities within the territorial sea

11.—(1) Subject to paragraph (2), the prescribed provisions of the 1974 Act apply within the territorial sea to and in relation to—

(a)the construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, maintenance, cleaning, use, operation, demolition and dismantling of any building, or other structure, not being in any case a vessel, or any preparation for any such activity;

with the specific caveat in paragraph (2):

 (2), [Paragraph (1)]  does not apply—

(a)to a case where article 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 of this Order applies; or

(b)to vessels which are registered outside the United Kingdom and are on passage through the territorial sea.

From these pieces of text we can deduce the following:

  • CDM2015 applies to all onshore projects in Great Britain (note the difference from United Kingdom)
  • CDM2015 applies to renewable energy projects (item 9), defined as those harvesting energy from wind or water.
  • All the items 4,5,6,7,8,10 above are NOT subject to CDM2015, but each item has a specific criteria which defines them.

Most other offshore civil/structural engineers will be dealing with oil and gas, and so items 4-6 are specifically covered under The Offshore Installations (Offshore Safety Directive) (Safety Case etc.) Regulations 2015 .



As it is possible to see, offshore civil engineering cross-references multiple legislations, with varying results depending on the project. The key is to remember only offshore renewable energy (wind and water) structures are subject to CDM2015, with all others having different regulations.

Just don't get it mixed up in your Professional Review!

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