The Health and Safety Executive have finally released their latest research report, 1198 “Implementation of the Principal Designer Role within CDM 2015”. Their aim is to broaden the understanding of how the Principal Designer (PD) role is being implemented in practice within the construction industry.

A two-month rapid review was conducted in February & March 2021 and utilised 849 respondents.

The approach taken for the report included multiple surveys, stakeholder responses and analysis of F10 data, as well as digital marketing campaigns through the use of social media platforms, the HSE Construction Sector e-bulletin and press releases to the construction industry.

What can we learn from this report?

  • Principal Designers are typically small to medium enterprises (SMEs) with less than 10 employees.
  • Only half the number of PDs were specifically undertaking a design role; other roles included health and safety consultant and quantity surveying.
  • 27% of PDs are appointed AFTER the concept design stage, at which point, many key design decisions have already been made.
  • Almost 75% of PDs understand and ensure that health and safety is an integral consideration in design.
  • Appointing the right people at the right time with the right resources is necessary to ensure the PD role can be done properly.
  • Although 89% of PDs liaise with the Principal Contractor (PC) and 88% collate Pre-Construction Information PCI), less than half of PDs obtain details from Temporary Works Designers.
  • The role of PD is better understood on larger & more mature projects, in comparison to one-off, smaller projects, where external PDs are utilised and the approach is less collaborative.
  • Around 20% of respondents did not consider the PD to be in control of the pre-construction phase.
  • The highest indicator of design capability and competency was “track record of construction design skills, knowledge and experience”, (31%) as opposed to being a members of Institute of Chartered Engineers (19%), Royal Institute of British Architects (18%) or the Chartered Institute of Building (17%).

Respondents indicated that having inexperienced PDs on projects encouraged a box-ticking mentality and cost-reduction on future jobs. Critically, they indicated that there was no perception of harmful consequences for using a PD on a project without the required skills, knowledge, and experience.

Some Clients are still not appointing the PD early enough to properly influence the design.

The PDs interaction with temporary works needs to increase. With some PDs, there was a failure to recognise that the pre-construction phase continues throughout the construction phase and, as such, there was little PD interaction with Temporary Works Designers. PDs can overcome this by establishing effective dialogue with the Principal Contractor’s Temporary Works Coordinator in order to coordinate the temporary works design.

We can take away a lot of conclusions from this report, however the message that stands out quite clearly across the CDM Regulations, is:

Appointing the right people, at the right time, with the right resources.
Read the full Research Report here

Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) 
Further information on dutyholders under CDM
Temporary Works