A principal designer is a designer who is an organisation or individual (on smaller projects) appointed by the client to take control of the pre-construction phase of any project involving more than one contractor.

Principal designers have an important role in influencing how risks to health and safety are managed throughout a project. The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) are the main set of regulations for managing the health, safety and welfare of construction projects. CDM applies to all building and construction work and includes new build, demolition, refurbishment, extensions, conversions, repair and maintenance.

Under the CDM Regulations 2015, the Principal Designer (PD) has a central role and wide- ranging responsibilities within your project. These include planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating health and safety in the pre-construction phase, and preparing and presenting relevant information to other duty holders.

CDM 2015 defines the principal designer as the designer with control over the pre-construction phase of the project. To meet this definition, the principal designer must be a designer, and also be appointed, and be in control of the pre-construction phase of the project:

  • A designer as defined under CDM 2015
  • Appointed as the principal designer
  • In control of the pre-construction phase

The pre-construction phase is everything up to work starting on site. This is when most design and planning takes place, so it makes sense that the principal designer should lead this process. The PD also provides relevant information to the Principal Contractor (PC), who’s then in charge of managing health and safety during the construction phase. Design decisions made during the pre-construction phase have a significant influence in ensuring the project is delivered in a way that secures the health and safety of everyone affected by the work.

The principal designer must have the right skills and experience to be able to perform the role. They should have:

  • Technical knowledge of the construction industry, relevant to the project
  • An understanding of how health and safety is managed through the design process
  • The skills to be able to oversee health and safety during the pre-construction phase of the project and the ongoing design

Principal designers must:

  • Plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety in the pre-construction phase. In doing so they must take account of relevant information (such as an existing health and safety file) that might affect design work carried out both before and after the construction phase has started.
  • Help and advise the client in bringing together pre-construction information, and provide the information designers and contractors need to carry out their duties.
  • Work with any other designers on the project to eliminate foreseeable health and safety risks to anyone affected by the work and, where that is not possible, take steps to reduce or control those risks
    ensure that everyone involved in the pre-construction phase communicates and cooperates, coordinating their work wherever required.
  • Liaise with the principal contractor, keeping them informed of any risks that need to be controlled during the construction phase.

Find out more about the principal designer duties and how Safety Forward can assist by applying their depth and breadth of construction experience by contacting us here.