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CDM Regulations & their impact on duty holders - Part 2: Principal Designers

28 Jan 2019

The second primary duty holder under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (“CDM”) is the principal designer.

The principal designer is an individual designer or design organisation appointed by the client to take control over the pre-construction phase of a project with more than one contractor. The principal designer has responsibility for coordination of health and safety during the pre-construction phase – they do not though need to carry out actual design work on the project.

A principal designer should be appointed as early as possible by the client, ideally at the point of the project’s conception, so that there is enough time for the principal designer to carry out their duties to plan and manage pre-construction and construction phases of a project.

Although the principal designer does not necessarily have to carry out any actual design work on the project, they must be a designer as defined in the CDM. They must be able to demonstrate that they have suitable health and safety skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the work and level of skill should reflect the nature of the project and the risks involved. The role of principal designer is particularly important as design decisions taken pre-construction can have a large impact on whether a project is delivered in a way that secures and ensures health and safety.

The principal contractor has a number of responsibilities to comply with to ensure they meet their obligations under the CDM, they include:

  • Planning, managing and monitoring health and safety during the pre-construction phase by identifying and eliminating or controlling foreseeable risks;
  • Ensure other designers are carrying out their duties and following any guidance given by the principal designer or client;
  • Assist the client with producing pre-construction information and providing the same to designers and contractors;
  • Preparation of the health and safety file which should then be kept up to date and revised during the life of the project. This will then be passed to the client on completion of the project;
  • Ensure those working in the pre-construction phase of a project cooperate with each other;
  • Assist the principal contractor by helping to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate the construction phase of a project particularly with regard to keeping them informed of any risks to be controlled during the construction phase.
Rebecca Weir

If a client fails to appoint a principal designer then those duties will fall on the client. This is something to be avoided given the level of skill, knowledge and experience expected of a principal designer.

A principal designer must be formally appointed and acknowledgment of the appointment is required from the principal designer, if this is not received then the client runs the risk that the principal designer is not properly appointed in the eyes of the HSE.

If you require assistance with appointment documents for designers or for more information on your obligations under the CDM please contact Rebecca Weir, or call 0191 232 8345.