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Role of the Principal Designer

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.

Who is a Principal Designer under CDM 2015?

The Regulations define a Principal Designer as follows:

“A principal Designer is the Designer as defined in the Regulations with control over the pre-construction phase of the project. This is the very earliest stage of a project from concept design through to planning the delivery of the construction work. The Principal Designer must be appointed in writing by the Client.

The Principal Designer can be an organisation or an individual that has:

  • the technical knowledge of the construction industry relevant to the project;
  • the skills, knowledge and experience to understand, manage and coordinate the pre-construction phase, including any design work carried out after construction begins.

Where the principal designer is an organisation, it must have the organisational capability to carry out the role. Principal designers may have separate duties as designers.”

Why is the Principal Designer important?

Along with the Client and Principal Contractor, the Principal Designer has an important role in influencing how the risks to health and safety should be managed and incorporated into the wider management of a project. Decisions about the design taken during the pre-construction phase can have a significant effect on whether the project is delivered in a way that secures health and safety. The Principal Designer’s role involves coordinating the work of others in the project team to ensure that significant and foreseeable risks are managed throughout the design process.

What must a Principal Designer do?

Where there is more than one Contractor, or if it is reasonably foreseeable that more than one Contractor will be working on a project at any time, the Client must appoint in writing a Designer with control over the pre-construction phase as the Principal Designer.

Principal Designers must ensure that the following duties are met.

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

In carrying out the duty to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate the pre-construction phase, Principal Designers must take account of the general principles of prevention and, where relevant, the content of pre-construction information, any Construction Phase Plan and any existing Health and Safety File.

This information should be taken into account particularly when decisions are being taken about design, technical and organisational issues to plan the items or stages of work that can take place simultaneously or must take place sequentially and when estimating the time needed to complete certain items or stages of work.

The principal designer’s work should focus on ensuring the design work in the pre-construction phase contributes to the delivery of positive health and safety outcomes.

Identifying, eliminating or controlling foreseeable risks

Principal Designers must ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that foreseeable risks to health and safety are identified. The risks that should be identified are the significant ones and which are likely to arise while carrying out construction work or during maintenance, cleaning or using the building as a workplace once it is built.

Once the risks have been identified, Principal Designers must follow the approach to managing them set out in the general principles of prevention. The Principal Designer must, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure that the design team eliminate the risks associated with design elements, or if this is not possible, reduce any remaining risks or control them to an acceptable level.

Ensuring co-ordination and co-operation

Principal Designers must ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that everyone involved in working on the pre-construction phase co-operate with each other; that Designers are complying with their duties and that Designers provide information about elements of the design which present significant risks that cannot be eliminated.

Providing Pre-Construction Information

Pre-Construction Information is information already in the Client’s possession or which is reasonably obtainable. It must be relevant, have an appropriate level of detail and be proportionate to the nature of risks involved in the project.

The Client has responsibility for the Pre-Construction Information and the Principal Designer must help the Client bring together the information the Client already holds (such as any existing health and safety file or asbestos survey).

The Principal Designer should then assess the adequacy of existing information to identify any gaps in the information which it is necessary to fill and provide advice to the Client on how the gaps can be filled. The Principal Designer should also help the Client in gathering the necessary additional information,

The information should be provided promptly and in a convenient form to help Designers and Contractors, who are either being considered for appointment or have already been appointed, to carry out their duties.

In addition to this, the Principal Designer’s role continues into the construction phase when design work is carried out and when gathering and preparing information for the health and safety file.

Contact us to find out how our CDM Consultants can help Principal Designers in delivering this service to their Clients. Additionally, we can offer a full Principal Designer service to Clients and their Project Team, from conception through to handover.