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Written by
on 01 October 2018


As a CDM Client, what steps do you take to ensure that your Principal Designer is managing the risks adequately on your behalf?

What steps do you take to check that the Principal Designer has the capability and necessary knowledge, skills, training and experience to fulfill their duties? i.e are they relevant to the project or are they a generalist?

How do you know whether the Principal Designer is simply paying lip service and not getting involved with your project team? I don’t mean just updating an F10, or attending progress meetings to justify their fee- I mean rolling up their sleeves and getting ‘stuck in’ and collaborating with other Designers to discuss health & safety risks in design.

My guess, is you assume that they are and have never really thought about it? Think about that for the moment….

The Principal Designer is doing the work on your behalf i.e. managing risks but the responsibility for doing the work is still yours. There is no getting away with that! So, what steps are you taking to satisfy yourself matters are being handled competently?

Here is a common scenario

Provide compliant roof safety system to relevant standards – this is a generic clause typically included by many architects and designers in their specifications when providing a building design to their clients. This is when a Principal Designer should be asking the relevant designer questions. What type of roof system do you mean? Do we need people working at height? Etc.

However, the inclusion of this clause in the building design pre-construction information will not cover the designer’s responsibility. Under CDM Regulations, it is a designer’s duty to ensure that any structure is designed to be used, as a workplace will be without risk to the health & safety of people.

Therefore, those involved in the design of a building should not leave the design of critical elements such as height safety to the contractor as it may leave them exposed in the event of an accident.

Matters could end up in a court

If an incident were ever to take place, let’s say an injury or worse, and it was found that insufficient consideration had been given to the correct design and specification of compliant roof safety systems at the design stage, the above clause may not cover the relevant designer.

In legal proceedings that follow such incidents, the principal designer’s role in appropriately addressing all health & safety risks in the design of the building will be questioned.

This would include managing height safety-, as falls from height are one of the most common forms of workplace fatalities.

As a CDM Client your role would likely be under scrutiny too in a situation such as this, so are you comfortable with the performance of your Principal Designer?

For peace of mind, you may wish to consider a principal designer audit or even auditing the architectural practice undertaking this role on your behalf? If so, we can help you.

If you require further advice and support about the CDM Regulations and a principal designers audit, please get in touch with Veritas Consulting.

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A chartered safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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