Principal Designer

Embedding safety every time

What does the Principal Designer role entail?

  • Understanding the Project and assisting the client in defining and developing the project brief
  • Helping the Client obtain and prepare the Pre-Construction Information (PCI), carry out a gap analysis identifying requirements for further surveys and investigations
  • Providing the pre-construction information to designers, principal contractor and contractors
  • Facilitating effective communication, coordination and collaboration among the Designers and ensuring they discharge their duties under CDM2015

Leading the team through effective design risk management and the application of the principles of prevention, ensuring all H&S risks are identified, eliminated, reduced, or managed


  • Ensuring Residual Risks are communicated to the Principal Contractor in the most suitable format (preferably on the drawings relevant to the task)
  • Engaging with maintenance teams and end-users to ensure that post-construction risks are considered and managed and that the project does not leave a legacy for future maintenance and operation
  • Liaising with the Principal Contractor during construction and checking all H&S risks on site are managed in accordance with the Construction Phase H&S Plan
  • Agreeing the format of the statutory health & safety file, monitoring progress and updating the Client at regular intervals, collating the information for issue at handover

Additional Services & FAQs

In addition to our CDM2015 duties as Principal Designer, we can also offer the following services:


On complex projects or where the Client requires additional support, we can also offer the added service of CDM advisor at strategic or site level. This can also include advice and support during RIDDOR investigations or in the case of health and safety disputes between the client and principal contractor.

We can help ensure that all consultants, principal contractor or contractors that are being engaged have sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to fulfil their duties under CDM, through a rigorous assessment of their personnel and organisational capabilities.

We can provide support to the Principal Designer or Designers where they may not have the in-house skills, capabilities or confidence to fulfil their role under CDM. It may also be where the lead consultant on the project is reluctant to take on the role of Principal Designer, or on Design & Build projects where the Principal Contractor has been asked by the Client to act as the Principal Designer. We can provide on-request examples of projects where we have successfully undertaken this support role.

We offer free CPD sessions providing an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the duty holders under CDM 2015. For more in-depth Principal Designer and CDM guidance we can also offer tailored training to meet the needs of your team.

If requested, we can also undertake site safety audits in the Construction Phase checking that the Principal Contractor has adequate safety measures and processes in place in line with their Construction Phase Health & Safety Plan and reporting to the Client with findings and action lists.

What are the CDM Regulations 2015?

The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015, also known as CDM Regulations or CDM 2015, are regulations governing the way construction projects of all sizes and types are planned and managed.

CDM 2015 aims to ensure health and safety issues are appropriately considered during the development of construction projects. The overall goal is to reduce the risk of harm to those who have to build, use and maintain structures.

The key to the regulations is the COMMUN­­­­ICATION, COLLABORATION AND COOPERATION between ALL parties involved to ensure Health and Safety is managed throughout the project and in-use.


The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – Further information

Managing health and safety in construction – Guidance on Regulations L153 – Further information

What is ‘Construction Works’ under CDM 2015?

Definition of ‘Works’

  • “the construction, alteration, conversion, fitting out, commissioning, renovation, repair, upkeep, decoration or other maintenance (including cleaning which involves the use of water or an abrasive at high pressure, or the use of corrosive or toxic substances), de-commissioning, demolition or dismantling of a structure”, and
  • (e) “the installation, commissioning, maintenance, repair or removal of mechanical, electrical, gas, compressed air, hydraulic, telecommunications, computer or similar services which are normally fixed within or to a structure.”

However, in a published Q&A an HSE spokesman stated that:

“General maintenance of fixed plant which mainly involves mechanical adjustment, replacing parts or lubrication is unlikely to be construction work”

CDM 2015 makes an important distinction between projects with a single contractor (‘one-man band’ e.g. an electrician/decorator etc.) or multiple contractors (involving multiple trades and a Main Contractor).

What are the Client’s duties under CDM 2015?

For all projects, commercial clients must make suitable arrangements for managing their project including:

  • Appoint Project Roles — If more than one contractor is working on the project, the client will need to appoint principal designers and principal contractors. This needs to be done in writing, otherwise, the client will remain legally responsible for the principal contractor and principal designer duties.
  • Prepare a Client Brief — This is used to communicate the expected standards and project requirements to the project team.
  • Allow Sufficient Time and Resources — Clients are required to allow contractors sufficient time and resources to complete the project safely.
  • Provide Existing Pre-Construction Information — to Designers and Contractors e.g.previous H&S file, boundaries and access, existing structures, site security or health hazards, constraints and expectations etc.
  • Ensure welfare provisions are in place before the start of the project.
  • Notify the HSE through the form F10 — For notifiable projects.
  • Ensure all duty holders comply with their duties, and maintain and review management for the duration of the project.

For domestic clients, the duties of the Client automatically pass on to the Contractor (single contractor project) or Principal Contractor (multiple contractors). The Client can also appoint the Architect as Principal Designer.


HSE – Commercial clients: roles and responsibilities – Further information

CITB – Industry guidance for Clients – Further information

For further information, a quote, or just an informal chat and advice, please contact

Catherine Blain

In-house Health & Safety Manager


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