iStock drawings pen and glassesThe changes in CDM regulations for 2015 will bring headaches to developers, contractors, architects and engineers alike. Here at PRO Structures, we have already run into queries over whether we can take on the role of ‘Principal Designer’, which is a new title taking over from ‘CDM Coordinator’, and must be appointed by the client in writing. We have also had questions about taking on responsibility for temporary works in this remit, and, generally, who is supposed to do what. So, we thought we would take a moment to reflect and pass on the main issues, in as digestible a format as we can…

In summary:

  • A Principal Designer must be appointed as long as there is more than one contractor – that means, if there is a sub-contractor of any kind employed on the job.
  • There are no longer CDM Coordinators to assist clients with their CDM duties, as these have been replaced by Principal Designers.
  • However, from the clients’ perspective, few architects or engineers are actually likely to be able to fulfil the role of Principal Designer, as it is likely to include duties outside of their expertise, and indeed insurance cover, such as temporary works. The area of temporary works is a specific stumbling block, as it is almost always outside the structural engineer’s remit.
  • On D+B contracts where the design team is employed by the contractor, the client may not appoint someone from the design team as Principal Designer. The architect or engineer are also likely to be wary of being asked, as they could well encounter a conflict of interest if they are employed both as a design engineer for the contractor, AND as Principal Designer acting on the clients behalf at the same time.
  • On consultant-led projects, the architect may well be asked to act as Principal Designer, or the client may seek advice from a former CDM Coordinator. If the engineer is asked, while they may accept, the duties for both client and Principal Designer are onerous, so your engineer is likely to show the client a copy of the new regulations and suggest they appoint someone independent! However, we all recognise that this will add both cost and time to the job, which nobody will be happy about.
  • Smaller domestic works are likely to cause a few headaches. Contractors in this field are unlikely to be aware of the extent of the new CDM regulations, and the suggestion that a Principal Designer needs to be appointed in addition to the architect and structural engineer is not going to be popular with clients.
  • Meanwhile, larger contractors may be surprised to find that they will automatically be assumed to take on the role of Principal Designer for the construction phase – in which case, they may well be advised to take on a CDM adviser to help with the additional duties!


The changes certainly seem to require a multitude of professionals to change the proverbial light bulb – and most worryingly, considering that the underlying reason for the changes is purported to be one of enhanced health and safety, by splitting up roles in this manner, the first principal of safety management is actually being broken – as it will not necessarily be the person most able to control risk who is responsible for doing so…

Good luck!