On a construction project where there is likely to be more than one trade Contractor, the Client has a duty to appoint a Principal Designer. The primary role of the Principal Designer is to coordinate the health and safety aspects of the pre-construction phase. Sometimes it is difficult to know who should take on this role. The CDM Regulations 2015 state that it should be the Designer who has overall control of the design; this often tends to be the Architect. However, in our experience, many Architects are uncomfortable with this, you can’t blame them, and after all, this is a health and safety coordination function. No Architect started their profession with the intent of becoming a health and safety professional. Even so, some have embraced these duties, yet many are reluctant to do so.
If you are considering whether to take on the Principal Designer role, you must evaluate whether you have the capability to fulfil these duties. Also, the Client is required to ensure that the people and organisations they appoint have the skills, knowledge, training and the organisational capacity. Your capability will be dependent upon your experience, qualifications, training and the level of risk involved in the project.
Quite simply, if the level of risk involved in a project is beyond your technical capabilities to act as Principal Designer, then you shouldn’t consider or accept an appointment. The impact this may have could ultimately affect your overall involvement on a project. If you do not have any arrangements in place to take on these additional duties, then you really need to take some appropriate action. This could include developing an internal training programme, directly employing suitably qualified personnel or bringing in specialised CDM Consultant.
Where works are being planned within operational facilities, the coordination of the pre-construction phase can prove to be difficult and complex, particularly where high risk operations exist. In such instances, it may be better that the Client retains the Principal Designer role themselves rather than the Lead Designer, as they’ll have a greater appreciation and understanding of the premises, the safety management systems in operation and the potential health and safety risks that may be encountered and how these risks may be overcome. In retaining this role, assistance may also be required to ensure CDM compliance.
On smaller projects, the only Designer may be the Client, as they may specify works to be carried out, which doesn’t require the appointment of a Designer. The regulations state that the Client is deemed to be the Principal Designer, unless an appointment is made in writing, otherwise they retain this role. With no Lead Designer to appoint as Principal Designer, the Client must consider whether this is within their capabilities, if not, then they may wish to seek assistance from either within or outside their organisation.
There are a number of choices available to the Client needing to appoint a Principal Designer. They may either retain the Principal Designer duties themselves, appoint the Lead Designer or Project Manager, or if it’s a Design and Build Contract, it could be the Principal Contractor.
It’s not necessarily straight forward as to who should be appointed as Principal Designer or whether the Client should retain this role. There are many scenarios to consider, therefore it is better that this is assessed on a project by project basis, ensuring whoever takes on the role has the skills, knowledge and technical capability.
Posted by: Paul Littlewood BSc (Hons), Marpal’s Managing Director.
For further information on who should be appointed as Principal Designer, or assistance in your Principal Designer duties, please contact Paul Littlewood at [email protected] or telephone 01332 668877.