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Principal Designer – Who is responsible and when?
Principal Designer – understanding your obligations
Despite the fact that CDM Regulations changed significantly back in 2015, there remains a great deal of confusion regarding who is responsible for complying with legislation and when that responsibility kicks in.
For clarity, it is important to understand that the pre-construction phase of a project begins from the moment an idea for a project is conceived. All too often by the time I am engaged to undertake the role of Principal Designer, with responsibility for managing this phase, I am told that a start on site is planned for as soon as a pre-construction information pack is produced. To be frank, this is too late in the process.
Appointing a Principal Designer at this late stage creates difficulties in demonstrating that the Client has given sufficient priorty and consideration to project planning and management. The whole team, including the Principal Designer, must work together throughout the pre-construction process to ensure that, not only are legal duties ‘ticked off’ but that those obligations are robustly complied with.
It is commonplace for clients to approach their architect in the first instance to provide Principal Designer services. Whilst many practices can, and do, offer this there are still many practices that do not wish to undertake the Principal Designer role.
As a result vital design information relating to residual Health & Safety risks may be overlooked. These must then be picked up and addressed at a later date by the Principal Designer when they are eventually appointed. The impact of this can be detrimental to the budget and programme.
I believe that many clients do not yet, fully understand that not appointing a Principal Designer places CDM legislative duties and responsibilities directly with them. This potentially leaves clients needlessly exposed to the risk of a material breach in Health & Safety legislation. Something which can result in unlimited fines and potentially prison time.
To avoid potentially serious consequences, it is crucial to make Health & Safety the number one priority when planning your next project. Either ensure that your chosen designer has the knowledge, experience and capacity to undertake the role or directly appoint a Principal Designer to ensure you are compliant from the word go.