What should construction clients look for in a Principal Designer?

Principal Designer

A Principal Designer is appointed by the client to have control over a project’s Pre-Construction Phase.

The Principal Designer can be an organisation – or on a smaller project an individual – that has:

  • A technical knowledge of the construction industry which is relevant to the project
  • The understanding and skills to manage and coordinate the pre-construction phase, including any design work carried out after construction begins.

Why is the Principal Designer important?

In liaison with the client and Principal Contractor, the Principal Designer influences how the risks to health and safety should be managed. Decisions about the design taken during the Pre-Construction Phase can have a significant effect on whether the project meets health and safety standards. The Principal Designer will co-ordinate the work of others in the project team to ensure significant and foreseeable risks are managed throughout the design process.

What must a Principal Designer do?

Principal Designers will manage, monitor and coordinate the pre-construction phase, taking into account the general principles of prevention and where relevant, the content of:

  • Any Construction Phase Plan (CPP). This will be relevant when the plan has implications for any design work that is carried out after the construction phase has started
  • Any existing Health and Safety File. In cases where a Health and Safety File has been prepared as part of previous construction work on the building, the file should have information which will help the planning, management and coordination of the pre-construction phase.

This information should be taken into account, in particular, when decisions are being taken about design, technical and organisational issues in order to plan which items or stages of work can take place at the same time or in sequence; and when estimating the time needed to complete certain items or stages of work.

The Principal Designer should bring together designers as early as possible in the project, and then on a regular basis, to ensure everyone carries out their duties.

The Principal Designer’s role continues into the construction phase when design work is carried out and when gathering and preparing information for the Health and Safety File.

Identifying, eliminating or controlling foreseeable risks

Principal Designers, working with the project designers, must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that foreseeable risks to health and safety are identified. The risks that should be identified are those that are significant and are likely to arise during construction work or during maintenance, cleaning or use of the building once it is built.

The Principal Designer must, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure the design team eliminate the risks associated with design elements. If this is not possible, they should reduce any remaining risks or control them to an acceptable level.

Ensuring coordination and cooperation

Principal Designers must ensure:

  • Everyone involved in the Pre-Construction Phase cooperates with each other. They must establish that effective communication is occurring and that information is shared within the project team
  • Designers comply with their duties. Appropriate checks should be made to ensure designers are dealing with design risks appropriately
  • Designers are providing information about elements of the design which present significant risks that cannot be eliminated.

Providing pre-construction information

Pre-construction information is defined as information that is already in the client’s possession or which is reasonably obtainable. It must be relevant, have an appropriate level of detail and be proportionate given the nature of risks to health or safety involved in the project.

The client has the main responsibility for pre-construction information. However, the Principal Designer must help and advise the client. The Principal Designer should help the Client bring the information the client already holds – such as any existing Health and Safety File or asbestos survey – together.

Liaising with the Principal Contractor

The Principal Designer must liaise with the Principal Contractor throughout their appointment. During the Pre-Construction Phase this must cover sharing information that may affect the planning, management, monitoring and coordination of the construction phase – in particular, the information needed by the Principal Contractor to prepare the Construction Phase Plan (CPP).

Liaison during the construction phase should deal with on-going design and obtaining information for the Health and Safety File.

If the Principal Designer’s appointment finishes before the end of the project, the Principal Designer must ensure the Principal Contractor has all the necessary information so they:

  • Are aware of the risks which have not been eliminated in the designs
  • Understand the means employed to reduce or control those risks
  • Understand the implications for implementing the design work during the remainder of the project.

The Principal Designer should also arrange for a handover of the Health and Safety File to the Principal Contractor and make them aware of any issues that may need to be taken into account in reviewing, updating and completing it.

If you would like more information about Acorn Safety Services becoming your Principal Designer or Principal Contractor visit https://acornhealthandsafety.co.uk/ or contact us at info@acornhealthandsafety.co.uk or on 01604 930380.


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