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14th December 2015

A brief guide to the principal designer role…

ALL CHANGE: The Construction (Design Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) were introduced to replace the 2007 Regulations. One of the most significant changes was the removal of the CDM co-ordinator (CDMC) role. To recap, the CDMC had three main duties:

  1. To advice the client and help them carry out their duties.
  2. To co-ordinate the health and safety aspects of the design.
  3. To prepare the health and safety file.  


IT WASN’T WORKING: The HSE identified that in many instances the role wasn’t completed as it had been envisaged. There are many reasons for this, the most common being that the chosen CDMC wasn’t integrated into the project team. They were either brought in too late or not involved as much as they should have been. With this in mind, the HSE developed the role of the principal designer (PD).


NOT A DIRECT REPLACEMENT: When CDM 2015 was introduced many assumed that the principal designer (PD) role would be a carbon copy of the CDMC role. However, the new role has a greater design perspective and fewer duties. The duties no longer part of this role gave been distributed among the client and the principal contractor.


WHEN MUST YOU APPOINT A PD?  A PD must be appointed in writing for the majority of the construction projects. The only exception is when the work is completed by a single contractor.

Tip 1- Assume that you will need to appoint a PD for pretty much all construction projects – even relatively small one. If you fail to do this, you will automatically take on the role.

Tip 2- Ideally the PD will be your first appointment. If possible, bring them in at the concept stage of your project. This will give them the best opportunity to be able to complete their duties fully.


WHAT ARE THE MAIN DUTIES? The PD’s role is to plan, manage and monitor the pre-construction phase and to coordinate health and safety. In summary, the PD has to work with the client to minimise risk during the construction phase of the work and, importantly, throughout the lifecycle of the premises.

To achieve this, the PD must assist the client with the preparation of suitable and sufficient pre-construction information which should be made available to the designers and the contractor. For example, it will include asbestos surveys of any existing structures. In addition, they will liaise with the contractor throughout the construction phase of the project. Their final duty is to prepare the health and safety file.

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