Principal Designers & Designers


Principal Designer (PD)


One of the key changes introduced by CDM 2015 is replacement of the role of CDM co-ordinator (CDMC) with a Principal Designer (PD). The Principal Designer has responsibility for co-ordination of Health & Safety during the pre-construction phase. The reason for the change is to give responsibility for CDM during the design phase to an individual that has the ability to influence the design.


Under the 2007 regulations, this role was often contracted out, resulting in extra costs, but the individual appointed was rarely properly embedded in the project team and so had little opportunity to influence the design.


Guidance published by the Health and Safety Executive in January 2015, defines Principal Designers as ‘…designers appointed by the client in projects involving more than one contractor. They can be an organisation or an individual with sufficient knowledge, experience and ability to carry out the role.’ This may be combined with other roles on the project, such as Project Manager or Architect.


The guidance suggests that the role of Principal Designer includes:


  • Informing the Client of their duties under the regulations
  • Planning, managing and monitoring Health & Safety in the pre-construction phase, including; identifying, eliminating or

controlling foreseeable risks; and ensuring Designers carry out their duties

  • Helping compile Pre-Construction Information and providing it to Designers and Contractors
  • Preparing the Health & Safety File and then reviewing, updating and revising it as the project progresses
  • Liaising with the Principal Contractor to help in the planning, managing, monitoring and co-ordination of the construction


  • Taking into account the general principles of prevention.
  • Ensuring that all persons working in relation to the pre-construction phase cooperate with the Client, the Principal Designer

and each other

  • Checking that Designers have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and (if they are an organisation) the organisational

capability to carry out the work


In addition, domestic Clients can choose to have a written agreement with the Principal Designer to transfer their duties to the Principal Designer.


The Principal Designer should be appointed as early as possible in the design process (if practicable at the concept stage) and at least before the start of the construction phase, so they have enough time to carry out their duties to plan and manage the pre-construction and construction phases. If a Client fails to appoint a Principal Designer, the Client must carry out their duties.


If domestic Clients on projects involving more than one contractor fail to appoint a Principal Contractor and Principal Designer, those duties will fall to the Designer and Contractor in control of the pre-construction and construction phases. See CDM for self-builders and domestic Clients for more information.


Guidance has been produced by the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) with small businesses in mind: Industry guidance for Principal Designers.





The duties of Designers have changed from the 2007 regulations.


Designers are defined in the 2015 CDM Regulations as ‘…an organisation or individual, who prepares or modifies a design for a construction project (including the design of temporary works); or arranges for, or instruct someone else to do so.’


Designs include drawings, design details, specifications, bills of quantity and calculations.


Designers include Architects, Engineers, Quantity Surveyors, Interior Designers, Surveyors, Technicians or anyone who specifies or alters a design. This can include Contractors, Principal Contractors, specialist Contractors and commercial Clients who become actively involved in the design. It also includes those who select products for use in construction and if a product is purpose-built, those who prepare the specification and manufacturers if they develop a detailed design.


Designers must be provided with Pre-Construction Information by the Client or by the Principal Designer where one is required. The Principal Designer has responsibility for co-ordination of Health & Safety during the Pre-Construction phase. They are appointed by the Client in projects involving more than one Contractor. Pre-Construction Information is information in the Client’s possession or information which is reasonably obtainable by or on behalf of the Client, which is relevant to the construction work.


A Designer would be for example, a Structural Engineering company, Quantity Surveyor or Mechanical and Electrical Designer engaged by an Architect for a project, where the Architect was acting as the Principal Designer.


The Designer’s duties apply as soon as designs are prepared which may be used in construction work, including concept design, competitions, bids for grants, modification of existing designs and relevant work carried out as part of feasibility studies.


The duties of Designers include:


  • Ensuring they have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience
  • Not commencing work unless they are satisfied that the Client is aware of their duties under the regulations
  • Co-operating with others involved with the project or any project on an adjoining site
  • Reporting instances where they or others are working in a way that puts them or anyone else in danger
  • Providing information to other members of the project team to help them fulfil their duties
  • Taking account of the general principles of prevention and the Pre-Construction Information, with the aim of eliminating foreseeable risks. Where this is not possible, taking steps to reduce the risks or control them through the design process and providing information about the remaining risks to other Dutyholders.
  • Where it is not possible to eliminate Health & Safety risks when preparing or modifying designs, Designers must ensure

appropriate information is included in the Health & Safety File about the reasonably practicable steps they have taken to reduce or control those risks

  • Agreeing with the Principal Designer the arrangements for the sharing of information to avoid omissions or duplicated effort


Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with requirements under CDM 2015 will remain a criminal offence punishable with unlimited fines and for individuals, imprisonment.