Your Short Guide To Principal Designers

Complying with Construction (Design & Management) 2015 Regulations, and taking care of your customers with a Principal Designer.

your short guide to principal designers


In order to protect and reduce the risk of harm to those who have to build, use and maintain structures, the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM Regulations) have been implemented to ensure that all areas of health and safety are properly considered during a project’s development. The CDM Regulations were first introduced in 1994, having been revised most recently in 2015 with the adaptation of changing the role of CDM co-ordinator to a Principal Designer (PD). 

Why was this change made?

This change came to give the responsibility for CDM during the design phase to someone who will be able to influence the design stage of the project, to ensure that CDM is compliant at the first stage. 

How does it work?

When the CDM Regulations were revised in 2007, the role was typically contracted out, which created added costs for the project – however, the PD contracted was often not able to influence the design phase because of their lack of involvement with the project team. 
Principal Designer Requirements: The revision of the CDM Regulations as published by the Health and Safety Executive in 2015 defines a principal designer as “designers appointed by the clients 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.” A PD can also be combined with other roles within a project, such as a project manager or architect

The role of a Principal Designer:

  • Informing the client of their duties per the regulations. 
  • Planning, managing and monitoring health and safety in the pre-construction phase, including; identify, eliminating or controlling foreseeable risks; and ensuring designers carry out their duties. 
  • Compiling pre-construction info and providing it to designers and contractors. 
  • Preparing the health and safety file to then review, update and revise it as the project progresses. 
  • Liaising with the principal contractor to help in the planning, managing, monitoring, and coordination of the construction phase.
  • Considering the general principles of prevention. 
  • Making sure that all parties working in relation to the pre-construction phase cooperate with the principal designer, client, and each-other. 
  • checking to make sure that designers have sufficient knowledge, skills, experience and (if they’re an organisation) the organisational capability to carry out the work. 

Also, domestic clients (those who have construction work carried out on their own home, or home of a family member that is not done as part of a business, whether for profit or not) can choose to have written agreement with the principal designer to transfer their duties to the principal designer. 

When should you appoint a Principal Designer?

A PD should be appointed as early as possible in the designing process of a project (if practicable at the concept stage) and at minimum before the start of the construction phase – this ensures enough time to carry out their duties to plan and manage the pre-construction and construction phases. 

What happens if you fail to appoint a Principal Designer?

If a client fails to appoint a principal designer, the client must carry out their duties. If domestic clients on projects that have more than one contractor fail to appoint a principal contractor and PD, the duties will then fall to the designer and contractor in control of the pre-construction phase. 

What are your legal obligations to a client? 

  • Clients unfamiliar with construction projects must need to be aware of the CDM Regulations that apply to their project. 
  • Explain that unless a CDM co-ordinator is appointed, work cannot continue beyond the initial design stage as per the CDM Regulations 2015. 
  • Ensure that the client is aware you are registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB), and as such have a duty to adhere to its code of conduct – this means you are required to inform the client that the architects are subject to disciplinary sanction of the Board in regards to complaints of unacceptable professional conduct or incompetence.
  • CDM 2015 requires PD and contractors to advise the client of their responsibility regarding CDM.


For advice and further information on principal designers, please contact our engineering department on 020 8099 6388 or email us at mail@hlngroup.co.uk.

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