The client duty to appoint a PD

The CDM 2015 Regulations have presented industry with a significant challenge to change the way it delivers both design and construction health and safety coordination. The coordination of all project design work and Design Risk Management with respect to health and safety in the Pre-Construction Phase has been firmly placed on the appointment of a Principal Designer.

The Principal Designer must have the skills, knowledge and experience relevant to the design, construction, maintenance and use of the project.

Who can be the ‘Principal Designer?

Where there is likely to be more than one contractor engaged to work on a project at any time, the Client for that project must appoint, in writing, a Principal Designer (Regulation 5(1)(a);

1.   The Principal Designer must be:

– Either: one of the design organisations or sole practitioner designer organisations designing on the projectOr, a separate — — Designer or design organisation not part of the team designing the project
– Or, see note* below

The CDM 2015 Regulations and guidance do not specify that the Principal Designer must actually be designing any part of the project.

2.      The Principal Designer must have the skills, knowledge and experience relevant to the design, construction, maintenance and use of the project. A designer must not accept the appointment for the Principal Designer role unless they have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience, and the organisational capability, relevant to the project.

3.      The Principal Designer must also have the knowledge of and skill to apply the principles of Design Risk Management, and have the knowledge of the CDM 2015 Regulations.


4.      On a commercial project, if a Client fails to appoint a Principal Designer, the obligation to fulfill the Principal Designer duties falls on the Client by default, whether or not they have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience.

5.      On a domestic project, if the Client fails to appoint a Principal Designer, the Designer in control of the Pre-Construction Phase becomes the Principal Designer.

Note* If the lead designer is capable of undertaking the design work and managing and coordinating the wider design team, but is not capable nor experienced in delivering the health and safety services required of a Principal Designer, then two choices are available:

–  The lead designer can accept the Principal Designer appointment from the Client, but sub-contract the Principal Designer role to a suitably experienced consultant. The appointed Principal Designer retains the full legal responsibilities for the Principal Designer service supplied by their consultant, or

–  The Client can appoint a separate organisation or individual as the Principal Designer.

It is to be noted that the Principal Designer should be appointed as early as possible in the design process, if practical at the concept stage. Appointing the Principal Designer (RIBA Stage 2, ideal) will provide the Client with assistance in pulling together the Pre-Construction Information and giving the Principal Designer time to carry out their duties. Remember that in commercial projects, in the absence of a Principal Designer appointment the Client takes on the role by default.

There’s plenty more to consider besides… if you need to know more get in touch with Emerald Health & Safety Services Ltd.

We assist our Clients with the specialist advice and support to successfully deliver construction projects in either the Principal Designer role, or as Principal Designer Assist services to other companies such as architects and project managers taking on the PD role themselves.

We can also support contractors in their wide-ranging responsibilities, offering site h&s inspections and audits, preparation of RAMS, incident investigation, policy writing, etc.

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