Are you a principal contractor?

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) - What you need to know

Who is a principal contractor?

A principal contractor is the contractor with control over the construction phase of a project involving more than one contractor. They are appointed in writing by the client (commercial or domestic) to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase.

Why is a principal contractor important in ensuring construction is carried out in a way that avoids harm?

A principal contractor, in close cooperation with the client and the principal designer, has an important role in influencing how the risks to health and safety are managed during construction work. This includes ensuring standards are understood and followed.

Which projects require the appointment of a principal contractor?

A principal contractor must be appointed in writing by the client where a project involves more than one contractor.

When should a principal contractor be appointed?

The principal contractor should be appointed by the client as early in the project as possible and before the construction phase begins. This is so that the principal contractor can:

  • allow time to plan the work of the construction phase and, in liaison with the principal designer and others involved in the project, identify any risks to health and safety and the control measures which need to be put in place
  • record details of any planning in a construction phase plan
  • work with the client for the duration of their appointment
  • liaise with the principal designer for the remainder of their appointment for the purposes of planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating the pre-construction phase

The effort devoted to planning should be proportionate to the complexity of the project and the level of risks involved.

What skills, knowledge and experience does a principal contractor need to carry out their duties in a way that ensures health and safety?

A principal contractor must be able to demonstrate that they have the skills, knowledge, experience (SKE) and, where an organisation, the organisational capability to carry out the work they are being appointed for. The level of SKE should be proportionate to the scale and complexity of the project and the nature of the risks to health and safety.

Examples of demonstrating SKE might include:

  • records of continuing professional development (CPD) including training records
  • membership of professional bodies
  • references from previous construction work

Examples of demonstrating organisational capability might involve:

  • using pre-qualification assessment services from third party assessors, such as those who are members of Safety Schemes in Procurement Forum (SSIP)
  • self-assessing using the standard health and safety pre-qualification questions in Publicly Available Specification PAS 91

What you need to do

Guidance on what a principal contractor needs to do to carry out their duties on both commercial and domestic projects under CDM 2015 is available on the roles and responsibilities of a principal contractor page.

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