Principal Designers Duties in CDM 2015 Explained

The principal designer should be involved from the earliest stages of the construction project. From the initial designs and planning through to the construction phase it is their duty to ensure health and safety.

They also need to have the relevant skills, experience and knowledge to efficiently fill the role.

The Principal designer plays a very important role throughout the construction project. It is therefore vital they fully understand and fulfil their duties under CDM 2015.

As CDM 2015 states

The principal designer must plan, manage and monitor the pre-construction phase and coordinate matters relating to health and safety during the pre-construction phase to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the project is carried out without risks to health or safety.

If you wish to know more about the roles and duties in CDM 2015 view our duties guide here.

Pre-Construction Duties

Assisting Project Set up

When meeting the client, it will be vital they understand their own duties under CDM 2015. It would be a good first point of call to check they do, and if not make them aware of their duties.

It will also be important to establish what type of client you are working with, as if it’s a domestic client some duties may transfer to you.

If the project is notifiable check that the client has or will submit a F10 form, or they may wish for you to do this for them.

Start to gather as much information about the project as you can. This will help you produce valuable pre-construction information that will be of benefit to everyone involved.

Co-ordination of Pre-construction phase

During this phase you should focus your attention on areas with high or unusual risks to health and safety. 

Organise regular meetings the client and other designers to ensure everyone is up to date with how the project is progressing.

Decisions in this phase will impact the future of the project. It's important you share any information with the team as it becomes available.

If you appoint any designers, you must ensure they have the relevant skills knowledge and expertise to carry out their duties.

Help compile pre-construction information

Help the client with collecting and collating pre-construction information. You can also use this as an opportunity to review any information that could impact health and safety.

If you spot any shortfalls in the information you should advise the client, and how they should address them.

You should:

  1. Check the adequacy of existing information
  2. Identify any gaps in existing information
  3. Advise the client how any gaps can be filled
  4. Help the client gather any necessary additional information.

You will need to pass this information on to any designers and then to the Principal contractor. Bear in mind this information will need to be kept up to date as and when new information becomes available. 


Identify, eliminate and control foreseeable risks

You should identify, eliminate, reduce and control risks in your own designs, and the overall project design. Ensure that all designers provide health and safety information relating to their design.

When designs are provided thoroughly examine them. Think of how they impact the rest of the project, any sequencing issues, new risks they could provide etc.

Everything you do needs to minimise risks or reduce the levels of those that are unavoidable. 

Keeping designers on board

As the principal designer, it is your job to ensure that designers are fulfilling their duties.

It is in your best interest you do not assume they will. Regularly check how they are considering health and safety in their designs. How they will review its effectiveness throughout the different project phases. 

It will be important to ensure everyone is working together and has all the information they need to do their job effectively. Establishing good communication channels is be key. Encourage designers to talk to each other and share ideas.

Any risks that cannot be avoided need to be noted and added to the pre-construction information.

Advise on time and resources

It is the client’s duty to allocate enough time and resources, you must assist them with this.

Estimating the period needed to complete the project, and the various stages during the pre-construction phase.

 Any decisions regarded design, technical or organisational issues must be communicated. This will allow the planning of items or stages of the project, sequencing and time estimations.

This information can be included within the pre-construction information and distributed to the project team.

As a final thing to do during this phase, it is good practice to check the construction phase plan has been produced and that there is no information missing. 


Duties during the construction phase

Liaise with designers & contractors

Ensure you are readily available to answer any questions around the pre-construction information or design information. 

During this phase issues may arise that were not identified during the pre-construction phase. Underground obstructions for example.

Communication of these issues as they arise will be vital. These could affect the health safety of the project and you will need to be kept in the loop to advise on the best course of action.


Prepare the health and safety file

You (the principal designer) are responsible for the production of this file. Make sure you have all the information you need, and that the principal contractor has told you everything you need to know.

This file must be kept up to date and revised as the project progresses. Make sure you add any relevant new information that could affect the project and future use of the site.

Post Construction Duties

Keep the health and safety file up to date

If any new risks or information becomes available as the project progresses it should be added to this file. Especially if it impacts the health and safety of the site.

It is best practice to ensure this contains all known risks and advisories before it is handed over to the client.

Handover of the health and safety file

You may hand this to the client, or if your role finishes before project completion the principal contractor.

If this does happen you need to ensure that the principal contractor is:

  1. Aware of the risks that have not been eliminated by designers
  2. Understand the ways those risks have been reduced or controlled
  3. Understands the implications for implementing any further design work
  4. Is aware of any issues to consider when reviewing, updating and completing the health and safety file
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