When to appoint a Principal Designer? Lucion’s Christian McCale Discusses

12th March 2018

Monday morning phone call with a retained Client discussing when the Principal Designer role commences and how this should transfer on D&B schemes. This is a regular occurrence and I continually refer back to one paragraph.

Paragraph 94 of the HSE guidence L153 Managing Health and Safety in Construction states “A principal designer is the designer as defined in regulation 2(1) (see also paragraphs 72–74) with control over the pre-construction phase of the project. This is the very earliest stage of a project from concept design through to planning the delivery of the construction work. The principal designer must be appointed in writing by the client.”

So, with regards to when CDM should commence on a project. The answer … immediately. I recommended to our Client to issue their standard letter advising the Client of their duties under CDM even for a project at masterplanning stage. The Client has a duty to appoint the Principal Designer otherwise they take on the duties themselves. Even at masterplanning stage, you are defining the restraints of your site, potential siting of buildings, consider this against the topography and this can dictate the accessability around the perimeter for future cleaning and maintenance.

PMs/Clients often appoint the lead designers up to stage 5 by default. Is this the case? Will the scheme be a D&B contract? In which case appoint them up to the end of stage 3. As above, the Client has to appoint the Principal Contractor and Principal Designer otherwise they take on the role by default. When they appoint a D&B contractor, they should be appointing them as both PD and PC. The clue is in the title ‘Design AND Build’ Contractor. The Client often only has this contract at this stage and the lead designer is novated across to the Contractor meaning no contractual link to the Client. The D&B Contractor now makes decisions based on cost and programme often over the lead designers head.

So should the lead designer be the Principal Designer in this situation? There is no direct contractual arrangement, surely that muddies the water. Paragraph 94 clearly defines the PD should be the puppet master who is pulling the strings, the decision maker, the leader. Is the architect in control on a D&B contract? Can the Contractor decide to eliminate parapets on a roof to reduce cost? Yes they can, but in doing so, should take on the responsibility of Principal Designer role in making that decision.

If you need support and advice in fulfilling your CDM duties, please do not hesitate in contacting me.

Christian McCale, Senior Consultant of Lucion Consulting

Christian McCale, Senior CDM/H&S Consultant

T: 07780 505757


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