Health And safety


CDM 2015 principal designer duties

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM Regulations) are intended to ensure that health and safety issues are properly considered during a project’s development so that the risk of harm to those who have to build, use and maintain structures is reduced. They were introduced in 1994 and revised in 2007. A further revision came into force in April 2015. 

One of the key changes introduced by CDM 2015 is replacement of the role of CDM co-ordinator (CDMC) with a principal designer (PD). The principal designer has responsibility for co-ordination of health and safety during the pre-construction phase. The reason for the change is to give responsibility for CDM during the design phase to an individual that has the ability to influence the design. Under the 2007 regulations, this role was often contracted out, resulting in extra costs, but the individual appointed was rarely properly embedded in the project team and so had little opportunity to influence the design. 

Guidance published by the Health and Safety Executive in January 2015, defines principal designers as ‘…designers appointed by the client in projects involving more than one contractor. They can be an organisation or an individual with sufficient knowledge, experience and ability to carry out the role.’ This may be combined with other roles on the project, such as project manager or architect

The guidance suggests that the role of principal designer includes: 

In addition, domestic clients can choose to have a written agreement with the principal designer to transfer their duties to the principal designer

The principal designer should be appointed as early as possible in the design process (if practicable at the concept stage) and at least before the start of the construction phase, so they have enough time to carry out their duties to plan and manage the pre-construction and construction phases. If a client fails to appoint a principal designer, the client must carry out their duties. 

If domestic clients on projects involving more than one contractor fail to appoint a principal contractor and principal designer, those duties will fall to the designer and contractor in control of the pre-construction and construction phases. See CDM for self-builders and domestic clients for more information.

Guidance has been produced by the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) with small businesses in mind: Industry guidance for Principal Designers (PDF, 150 KB)

Call us to discuss your health and safety needs so we can provide a quote to undertake principal designer duties.