CDM 2015: Everything You Need To Know About Preconstruction Clients Duties

Regulations 4-7 in CDM 2015 set out what duties clients must perform in order to adhere maintain health and safety throughout a project and meet the requirements of CDM 2015, from appointing principal designers to whether your project is notifiable we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Remember – the requirements of CDM 2015 apply whether or not the project is notifiable.

The client has a major influence over the way a project is procured and managed as they have contractual control, will appoint designers and contractors, as well as determining the budget available, timeframes and other resources that are available throughout the project.

Who is a Client?

CDM 2015 defines a client as “anyone for whom a construction project is carried out”. This definition applies to both non-domestic (or ‘commercial’) clients and ‘domestic’ clients.

The Regulations of CDM 2015 fully apply to commercial clients, however with domestic clients, the effect of regulation 7 is to pass the client duties on to other dutyholders.

Commercial Clients: This refers to an organisation or an individual where a construction project is carried out in connection with a business. Commercial clients can include for example; retailers such as Argos, Office buildings such as the Shard, schools or universities.

Domestic Clients: If work is being carried out on a property or area that is not connected to a business you are a domestic client. This may mean for example construction work is carried out on their home, or the home of a family member.

As domestic clients will not be health and safety competent or familiar with CDM 2015, regulation 7 is there to ensure successful project that meets CDM 2015 requirements by passing some of the duties to the Contractor, or Principal Contractor.

The focus of this guide will be on Commercial Clients, if you are a domestic client you can read our ultimate guide for domestic clients to ensure you understand your duties fully.

What to do in the pre-construction phase

CDM 2015 makes the client accountable for the impact of their decisions and approach to health, safety and welfare on the project. In the pre-construction phase there are a number of things you will need to do as a client to ensure your project gets off to a successful start.

  1. Prepare your client brief
  2. Appoint designers and Principal Designer if required
  3. Appoint contractors and Principal Contractor if required
  4. Provide relevant project information to Contractors and Designers
  5. Allocate time & resources
  6. Notify the HSE

Appointing A Principal Designer

If your project has more than one contractor, you need to appoint a Principal Designer.  This should be done as early as possible in the design process, if practicable at the concept stage. As a client if you appoint the Principal Designer early you will make your life easier as they will be able to provide support with pulling together preconstruction information, whilst this will also giving them enough time to carry out their duties effectively.

The duration of the principal designer’s appointment needs to take into account any design work which may occur in the construction phase and also take into account any design issues that may arise during construction which will need suitable modifications to the designs.

If the principal designer’s appointment finishes before the end of the project, you as the client need to ensure that the principal contractor is fully briefed on matters arising from designs relevant to any subsequent construction work, this includes passing on the health and safety file.

The principal designer must be appointed in writing and it is important you keep a record of this appointment.

Appointing A Principal Contractor

Again, it is to your benefit that the Principal Contractor, if required to be appointed, is done so as early as possible in the preconstruction phrase. A Principal Contractor is required if more than one contractor is working on the project.

The principal contractor will help your meet your duty as a client to create a construction phrase plan before any work is officially started. This also gives the principal contractor time to carry out their duties, such as preparing the construction phase plan and liaising with the principal designer in sharing any relevant information about the project for health and safety.

When appointing a Principal Contractor

The principal contractor must be appointed in writing and it is important you keep a record of this appointment.

Important things to consider when appointing contractor and designers

When you are appointing either of these roles it is vital that the individual or organisation you chose have been carefully vetted in terms of their skills, knowledge and experience to complete the work in a way that secures health and safety.

Provide relevant project information to Contractors and Designers

Pre-construction information refers to information that is already in your (the client’s) possession, this can including documents like an existing health and safety file, an asbestos survey, structural drawings etc or any information which is reasonable to obtain through sensible enquiry.

You as the client have the main duty for providing pre-construction information. This must be provided as soon as practicable to each designer (including the principal designer) and contractor (including the principal contractor) who is bidding for work on the project or has already been appointed.

Any information provided must be

  1. Relevant to the particular project;
  2. Have an appropriate level of detail; and
  3. Be proportionate to the risks involved.

If you have a principal designer appointed it is their duty to assist you with this.

CDM Documents you will need to ensure are in place before work commences

  1. Health and safety file
  2. Construction phase plan


Allocate time and resources

Clients also have a duty to ensure that efficient time and resource is allocated to all tasks in the project no matter how small. Even simple things such as minor building work or scheduling routine maintenance will need adequate time to plan and manage the work safely.

With the Principal Designer and Contractor on board it will be important to sit down with them and carefully plan out key activities into a schedule for the project, this way you can ensure enough time is allowed to complete these key activities with all key duty holders in agreement and understanding.

There should be regular dialogue between the client, the principal designer and principal contractor to ensure they have the time and resources to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate the pre-construction and construction phases.

Notify the HSE

A project is notifiable if the construction work on a construction site is

  • Scheduled to last longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers working simultaneously at any point in the project
  • Exceeds 500 person days.

If your project exceeds these notification thresholds it is your duty as a client to inform the relevant enforcing authority (HSE, Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) or Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

The easiest way to notify any project (to HSE, ORR or ONR) is to use the electronic F10 notification form at

You (the client) must submit this notice as soon as practicable before the construction phase begins.


Liquid error: Could not find asset snippets/eu-cookie-banner-app.liquid