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    Principal Designers to be placed at the heart of project safety

    The (almost) definitive version of the CDM Regulations 2015 plus the associated legal and industry guidance has now been published and HSE expects the regulations will come into force on 6 April 2015, subject to final parliamentary scrutiny.

    Interested parties will be considering the implications for their business and the impact the changes might have on injury and ill-health arising from construction projects.

    Three new Russian Dolls

    There will be three new sets of ‘rules’ namely:

    See also our useful Summary of Regulations

    The Statutory Instrument (CDM Regulations 2015) is at the heart of the ‘Russian Dolls’ and is the best starting point for deciding on the actions required to achieve compliance.

    A failure to comply with the CDM Regulations 2015 will represent a ‘material breach’ and create an offence which may result in a prosecution and/or payment of HSE Fees for Intervention.

    On this principle we have set out below a brief summary of what the Regulations will require of the appointed project Principal Designer (PD). Who can the client appoint as PD? When must the PD be appointed? and What actions must the PD take?


    The change to appointment of a PD rather than a CDM-C is regarded by HSE as one of the most significant elements of the CDM Regulations 2015. The change is intended to place the PD (and client) at the heart of construction project safety.

    PD must be a ‘designer’

    The PD is the designer appointed by the client to ensure that the project is carried out without risks to health or safety by undertaking the actions outlined below.

    The PD can be any person who prepares or modifies a design; arranges for, or instructs, any person under their control to do so in the course or furtherance of a business. The ‘person’ can be an individual or a corporate body.

    PD must have the necessary skills and capabilities etc.

    The PD appointed to work on the project must have the skills, knowledge and experience and, if they are an organisation, the organisational capability, necessary to fulfil the role in a manner that secures the health and safety of any person affected by the project.

    PD skills and capabilities etc. must be checked by client

    The project client must take steps to satisfy themselves that the PD fulfils the conditions regarding skills and capabilities etc. and the PD must not accept an appointment as project PD unless they fulfil these conditions.


    The client must appoint the PD “as early as possible in the design process”. The requirement under CDM 2015 (early as possible) is more decisive that the current CDM 2007 requirement to appoint the CDM-C “as soon as is practicable after initial design work or other preparation for construction work has begun”.

    The current RIBA Plan of Work 2013 requires early appointment of the CDM-C by declaring that it is “essential the (project) team is properly assembled” by Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief.


    The overarching duty of the PD is to ensure that the project is carried out without risks to health or safety. This must be achieved by actions to:

    • Plan, manage and monitor – the pre-construction phase; and
    • Coordinate – matters relating to health and safety during the pre-construction phase.

    In fulfilling these overarching duties the PD must also:

    • General Principles – take into account the general principles of prevention and the content of any construction phase plan and health and safety file;
    • Risk Elimination and Control – identify and eliminate or control foreseeable risks to the health or safety of any person carrying out or affected by construction work; maintaining or cleaning a structure; or using a structure as a place of work;
    • Designer Checks – ensure all designers comply with their duties to eliminate, reduce and control risk through provision of information;
    • Cooperation – ensure that all persons working in relation to the pre-construction phase cooperate with the client, PD and each other; and
    • H&S File – prepare a file containing H&S information likely to be needed during any subsequent project and ensure file is reviewed, updated etc. from time to time and passed to the client at the end of the project.

    The PD is also required to comply with two other duties:

    • Pre-Construction Information – assist the client in the provision of the pre-construction information required and provide this information, promptly and in a convenient form, to every designer and contractor appointed, or being considered for appointment, to the project.
    • Construction Phase Liaison – liaise with the PC and share with the PC information relevant to the planning, management and monitoring of the construction phase and the coordination of health and safety matters during the construction phase.

    The Principal Designer responsibilities are demanding and exceed those currently held by the CDM Coordinator.

    The Regulations make it more explicit that the client must appoint the PD early in the life of a project and that the client must take steps to be satisfied that the company or person appointed as PD has all the necessary skills and capabilities etc.

    The PD is required to check on compliance by other designers and lead / coordinate the risk identification and elimination processes throughout the pre-construction phase.

    Understanding what the law requires and putting in place the right people and processes should put clients and the appointed PD in a comfortable position and help improve action to secure safety through design.

    Where such positive voluntary actions are not taken the CDM Regulations 2015 and the Fee for Intervention scheme will provide HSE with some powerful tools to secure compliance by both Principal Designers and Designers.

    CDM 2015 Information and Templates

    See CDM 2015 Survey Results for the findings of our CDM 2015 Five Minute Online Survey.

    We have published a great deal of further information and templates designed to support Clients, Designers, Principal Designers/Contractors and Contractors in meeting their duties under CDM Regulations 2015.

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