The operation and maintenance manual (O&M Manual) defines the requirements and procedures for the effective operation, maintenance, decommissioning and demolition of the building. The operating and maintenance manual includes details of the building’s construction, history and maintenance, instructions for its operation and maintenance, and guarantees and warranties.

When any significant building work is undertaken, either as a New Build, Cat A refit (of the basic structure) or Cat B refit (tenants fittings), it is a legal requirement in the UK that an O&M Manual be provided as part of the Health & Safety documentation for the building. The Manual contains full details on everything from the correct way to clean the carpets, to the correct maintenance schedule for the Air conditioning – Operating and Maintenance Manual Template.

The controlling legislation is the 2007 Construction Design and Management Regulations – CDM 2007 (as of Oct 2010 when this was written), and there are more details available from The Health and Safety Executive (1). The typical manual will look like a set of large lever arch files full of paper and varying form 2 or 3 files up to 80+ depending on the size of the project.

In practice it is normally the Main Contractor or their specialist O&M consultants (3) who are responsible for pulling together all the information necessary to meet these regulatory requirements plus any additional requirements that are sometime imposed by the client or their consultants and architects during the design stage. In theory the CDM co-ordinator will then incorporate the O&M manuals as part of their Health & Safety file, though in practice they will ask the Main Contractor to prepare the documents so they can do a quality audit and sign it off. In general O&M manuals are a much neglected part of the build process and give cause to high levels of customer dissatisfaction (See BSRI survey results (2)) The top 3 pitfalls to avoid are all to do with preparation and timing.

The intended beneficiary of the manual is the eventual user of the building or their facilities Management team.  But the paymaster is the Main Contractor whose key incentive is to get the manuals signed off by the CDM and client team, in order to avoid any retentions to their payment schedule that are a normal part of the contractual arrangements. The degree to which these objectives are aligned, depends on the client team.

By Stephen Milton


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