Abstract This paper concerns the improvement of supervisory control systems in the context of remote handling for the maintenance tasks in ITER. This work aims at providing a single formalism and tools to define in a generic way the ITER maintenance tasks and scenarios for in-vessel and hot cell operations. A three-layered approach is proposed to model these tasks and scenarios. Physical actions are defined for the scene elements. From these physical actions, behaviours are defined to represent high-level functionalities. Finally, interaction modes define the way that behaviours are achieved in terms of human–machine interactions. Case study concerning the blanket maintenance procedure is discussed concerning the contributions of the descriptive model and the context-based assistances to the activities of supervisory control.