Responsibilities of the Principal Designer under CDM 2015

5 minute read | 14 April 2015 11:46:24 BST

Principle Designer CDM

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 came in to effect on 6 April 2015 with the key aim of encouraging safer working practice in order to prevent injury, ill-health and fatalities to those working in construction and also to reduce bureaucracy.

Replacement of CDM Co-ordinator Role

A significant change in CDM 2015 is the replacement of the CDM Coordinator (created under CDM 2007), with a new Principal Designer (PD) role. The appointment of the PD is the responsibility of the Client for all projects involving more than one Contractor, including domestic projects.  The Client also has a duty to ‘take reasonable steps’ to ensure the PD complies with any other PD duties under 2015.

Principal Designer under CDM 2015

So, the PD has the responsibility for the coordination of the pre-construction phase which is vital to the management of any successful construction project. The PD must plan, manage and monitor the pre-construction phase and co-ordinate 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.

‘Design’ in the Role of Principal Designer

CDM 2015 makes it clear that the PD must be a Designer i.e. anyone who as part of their business, prepares or modifies a design, or arranges for, or instructs, any person under their control to do so, in relation to a structure, product, or mechanical / electrical system, that is intended for use in a particular structure.

As the term 'design' is widely defined to include specifications and bills of quantities, and also calculations prepared for 'the purposes of a design', this means that Clients and others involved in the project such as Quantity Surveyors might also be Designers. HSE legal series guidance L153 (which is not an ACoP) also provides that 'Chartered Surveyors and Technicians' are also Designers, as are those who select products for use, or who develop a detailed design that is subsequently manufactured for a project.

In short, the Project Lead Designer or indeed any of the aforementioned roles may be appointed as PD, if they have control of the pre-construction phase.  As the term 'control' relates only to the management of health, safety and welfare on construction projects, and not to other aspects of project management, it is important to bear in mind that anyone undertaking the PD role must have the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to perform the functions required at Regulations 11 and 12 of CDM 2015.

In situations where the Designer does not have appropriate skills, knowledge or experience, they might be supported by a Health and Safety Advisor, although the Designer will remain accountable for the performance of the PD duties.

Transitional Arrangement for Existing Projects

CDM 2015 Regulations

Clients should be aware that the transitional arrangements for existing projects (including non-notifiable projects) require them to assess their current management arrangements for compliance of CDM 2015. Where an existing project has a CDM Coordinator, a PD must be appointed before 6 October 2015 unless the project ends before that date. During the interim period the existing CDM Coordinator must fulfil the transitional duties specified.

The project management implications of the introduction of the PD role are clear.  The PD has a more central role in a construction project than the CDM Coordinator previously had, so is in a far better position to influence health and safety early in the project.

As the vast majority of construction projects will have more than one contractor, the focus is now squarely on the Client to appoint a PD, and also to ensure that the PD complies with their statutory duties. Any failure to do so could also lead to costly enforcement intervention, including the issue of notices to remedy deficiencies or stop dangerous activities.

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Further information

Tags: Advice for businesses & organisations

David Bryan BSc, CMIOSH, CMAPS

David is a health and safety consultant and tutor, having over 20 years experience in this field. He has expertise in general health and safety management, construction design and management, logistics operations, fire safety management, and cognitive psychology. His major training work includes the preparation and delivery of NEBOSH and IOSH accredited health and safety management courses, and a range of bespoke classroom and online courses.