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Role of the Principal Contractor

The aim of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 is to improve the overall management and co-ordination of health, safety and welfare throughout all stages of a construction project and therefore to reduce the large number of serious and fatal accidents and cases of ill health which happen every year in the construction industry.

All those who work in the construction industry have their part to play looking after their own health and safety and in improving the industry’s health and safety record.

Who is a Principal Contractor under CDM 2015?

The Regulations define a Principal Contractor as follows:

“A Principal Contractor is the organisation or person that co-ordinates the work of the construction phase of a project involving more than one contractor, so it is carried out in a way that secures health and safety. They are appointed by the client and must possess the skills, knowledge, and experience, and (if an organisation) the organisational capability to carry out their role effectively given the scale and complexity of the project and the nature of the health and safety risks involved.”

Why is a Principal Contractor important?

Good management of health and safety on site is crucial to the successful delivery of a construction project. In liaison with the Client and Principal Designer, Principal Contractors have an important role in managing the risks of the construction work and providing strong leadership to ensure standards are understood and followed.

What must a Principal Contractor do?

On all projects with more than one contractor, a Principal Contractor will be appointed who must ensure that the following duties are met.

Planning, managing, monitoring and co-ordinating the construction phase

The Principal Contractor should be appointed by the Client before the construction phase begins to allow them to work closely with the Client for the duration of the project and the Principal Designer for the remainder of their appointment.

In planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating the construction phase, a Principal Contractor must take account of the general principles of prevention. They must take account of these principles when decisions are being taken to plan simultaneous or sequential items or stages of work and when estimating the time that work will take to complete.

The Principal Contractor is responsible for the development and maintenance of the Construction Phase Plan. This is a live document and should remain relevant and up-to-date throughout the construction project.

Providing suitable Site Inductions

The Principal Contractor must ensure that every site worker is given a suitable site induction. The induction should be site specific and highlight any particular risks and control measures that those working on the project need to know about.

Preventing unauthorised access to the site

The Principal Contractor must ensure reasonable steps are taken to prevent unauthorised access onto the construction site. They should liaise with the Contractors on site to physically define the site boundaries by using suitable barriers which take account of the nature of the site and its surrounding environment. The Principal Contractor should also take steps to ensure that only those authorised to access the site do so.

Providing Welfare Facilities

The Principal Contractor must ensure that suitable and sufficient welfare facilities are provided and maintained throughout the construction phase.

Liaising with the Principal Designer

The Principal Contractor must liaise with the Principal Designer for the duration of the project. The early appointment of a Principal Contractor by the Client will allow their construction expertise to be used from the earliest stages of designing and planning a project. They should also liaise with the Principal Designer throughout the construction phase on matters such as changes to the designs and the implications these changes may have for managing the health and safety risks.

Other duties

The Principal Contractor also has additional duties they must comply with. These include the duty to consult and engage with workers.

Working for Domestic Clients

A Principal Contractor’s role when working on a project for a Domestic Client is no different to their role when carrying out work for a Commercial Client. They must still carry out the duties set out above in proportion to the risks involved in the project. But, in certain circumstances the duties of the Domestic Client are transferred to another duty holder, including the Principal Contractor.

OM Safety Solutions Ltd provides health and safety services to contractors on all projects as part of our Construction Health and Safety Consultant service. Additionally, many support services are included within our Construction Business Safety Solutions.

Contact us if you have any further questions relating to the role and responsibilities of a Principal Contractor.