Contractors: roles and responsibilities

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015)

A contractor is anyone who directly employs or engages construction workers or manages construction work. Contractors include sub-contractors, any individual self-employed worker or business that carries out, manages or controls construction work.  They must have the skills, knowledge, experience and, where relevant, the organisational capability to carry out the work safely and without risk to health.

Contractors and the workers under their control are most at risk of injury and ill health from construction work. Contractors therefore have an important role in planning, managing and monitoring their work to ensure any risks are controlled.

Contractors on all projects must:

In addition to the above responsibilities, contractors working on projects involving more than one contractor must:

Where a contractor is the only contractor working on a project, they must ensure a construction phase plan is drawn up before setting up the site.

When working as the only contractor for a domestic client, the contractor takes on the client duties, as well as their own as contractor. However, this should involve them doing no more than they will normally do to comply with health and safety law.

Where a domestic project involves more than one contractor, the principal contractor normally takes on the client duties and the contractor will work to the principal contractor as 'client'. If the domestic client does not appoint a principal contractor, the role of the principal contractor must be carried out by the contractor as principal contractor and the client duties must be carried out by the contractor in control of the construction phase and the client duties must be carried out by the contractor as principal contractor. Alternatively, the domestic client can ask the principal designer to take on the client duties (although this must be confirmed in a written agreement) and the contractor must work to them as 'client' under CDM 2015.

Further guidance on who a contractor is; why they are important in ensuring construction work is carried out in a way that avoids harm; when their duties start; and what skills, knowledge and experience they need to carry out their duties in a way that ensures health and safety is available at Are you a contractor?

Updated 2022-08-10