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10th April 2018

Must there be a Principal Contractor?

Principal Contractor - Construction

Do I Need a Principal Contractor?

This is one of the more commonly asked questions received on our H&S advice line and so this blog post has been written to provide clear definitive advice to clients on the subject of CDM and the role of Principal Contractor.

The Scenario

You have a relatively minor construction project in the pipeline and you want to use a selection of small contractors to do the work. However, none are set up to manage the whole project, i.e. be the principal contractor. Does this matter?

What’s the Problem?

Over the years you’ve used a number of small contractors for occasional small works on your premises, e.g. for electrical work, plumbing etc. However, now you have a construction project on the horizon you’re keen to use these firms again.

However, your manager has thrown a spanner in the works by insisting that one of them has to be appointed the “Principal Contractor” (PC) and take overall charge of the project. You have spoken to the contractors but no one is interested in this role. Where does this leave you?

The CDM Regulations

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulation 2015 (CDM) make it very clear that if you have a project that involves two or more contractors, then one must be appointed as the PC.

The PC is essentially responsible for the following during the entire construction project:-

  • Preparing a construction phase plan for the works;
  • Organising the work;
  • Working together with others to ensure health and safety.

Word of Warning – If you don’t do this at the outset, The CDM Regulations also state that if a PC is not formally appointed, then the client takes on the responsibility by default! So there’s no avoiding the requirement for a PC.

The HSE has reported that although these CDM Regulations have been in place since 2015, the requirement to appoint a PC is often overlooked.  During routine site inspections, in most instances inspectors would stop a project until this legally required role is taken on by somebody.

Although you might be tempted to take on the role yourself, unless you’re fully set up for it – i.e. you have competent staff who are capable of running a construction project and writing a construction phase plan – then you shouldn’t attempt do so! Apart from the fact that you run the risk of falling foul of the law, managing a construction project even a relatively small one is not as simple as it may look.

What About Out-Sourcing?

Yes that’s possible to do and there are a number of companies that will project manage jobs. Some are set up to co-ordinate the work and effectively take on the role of the PC.

Lighthouse also have considerable experience in providing CDM advisory services to Clients, Principal Designers and Principal Contractors.

Contact us through the website or call us on 0845 459 1724 if you need help with any aspect of Health & Safety for the Construction industry.


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