The End of CDM Co-ordinators

Tuesday, 13th October 2015

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (''the Regulations'') came into force on 6 April 2015 and replaced the previous 2007 regulations. In summary, the Regulations define legal duties for the safe operation of construction sites in the UK. One of the significant changes brought about by the Regulations was the demise of the CDM Co-ordinator role and the creation of the ''Principal Designer''. Due to the transitional provisions within the Regulations, any CDM Co-ordinator appointed prior to 6 April 2015 could continue to work on a construction project in the same role. However, now that the transitional period has ended (with effect from 6 October 2015), a Principal Designer must have been appointed on all construction projects- effectively abolishing the role of CDM Co-ordinator.      

Do the Regulations apply to my works?

The Regulations apply to all construction work in the UK and therefore affect nearly every construction, engineering or development project. There is no exclusion for small projects or domestic projects. However, a domestic client's burden is reduced as the Regulationsautomatically pass the client's duties to other parties. 

Who is ''The Client''?

The definition of ''Client'' under the Regulations is extremely wide, being "any person for whom a project is carried out". The Regulations go on to state several ''Client duties''. One such duty is for the Client to ensure that where there is more than one contractor (which for the purposes of the Regulations includes sub-contractors) involved in a project, or it is reasonably foreseeable that there will be more than one involved, a Principal Designer must be appointed in writing.

Who should be the Principal Designer?

The Regulations state that the Client should appoint a "designer with control over the pre-construction phase as Principal Designer". The definition of ''designer'' includes any person who prepares or modifies a design, or arranges for or instructs any person under their control to do so. The Health and Safety Executive's draft guidance on the Regulations  (published on 9 January 2015), provides that the appointed Principal Designer must have the technical knowledge of the construction industry relevant to the project and the skills, knowledge and experience to understand, manage and coordinate the pre-construction phase, including any design work carried out after construction begins. For the wide majority of projects, it is likely that the lead architect or any design and build contractor will comply with these requirements. However, this should be considered on a case by case basis.

When should the appointment be made?

The Regulations state that the appointment of the Principal Designer must be made as soon as practicable and always prior to the construction phase.

What if a Principal Designer is not appointed?

In the event that a Client does not appoint a Principal Designer, the Client will be presumed to have stepped into the role themselves and must fulfil the relevant duties under the Regulations. Failure to do so may result in civil or criminal sanctions. 

Key Points

  • Now that the transitional period of the Regulations has come to an end, Clients on construction projects must appoint a Principal Designer in writing.
  • Such an appointment must take place as soon as possible and in any event, prior to the commencement of any construction works.
  • Clients should ensure that any Principal Designer appointed must have a design input on the project in question and also have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to be in the particular role.
  • If no appointment is made, Clients are automatically responsible for the Principal Designer duties themselves, including the preparation and maintenance of a health and safety file for the project.
  • Clients should be wary of appointing Principal Designers who lack the necessary skills and competence to fulfil the role, and also of breaching their duties as this may result in civil or criminal sanctions.

This article was jointly written by our Partner Stephen Homer and Trainee Solicitor Emma Clayton. 

Key Contact

Stephen Homer

Partner and Head of Adjudication and Arbitration Services

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+44 (0)1392 333883


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