5th April, 2022

CDM 2015 Principal Contractor Duties Explained

Any construction project with more than one contractor needs a principal contractor. Appointed by the client, the role of the principal contractor has additional CDM duties and responsibilities. Here are the CDM 2015 principal contractor duties explained.

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The principal contractor role has existed under CDM for over 25 years, so by now, the role of the principal contractor is a fairly familiar one. It existed under CDM 2007, and even in the previous 1994 version of the regulations.

While the requirements and duties placed on the principal contractor have developed over the past 20 years, the general requirements to ensure co-operation between all contractors remains.

Not sure what changed and when? Take a trip down memory lane with the history of the CDM regulations.

The requirements to appoint a principal contractor changed with the latest 2015 version of the regulations.

Previously, under CDM 2007, the principal contractor was only required to be appointed on notifiable projects.

Now, under CDM 2015, the principal contractor must be appointed on any project with more than one contractor (including sub-contractors).

5.—(1) Where there is more than one contractor, or if it is reasonably foreseeable that more than one contractor will be working on a project at any time, the client must appoint in writing—

  1. a designer with control over the pre-construction phase as principal designer; and
  2. a contractor as principal contractor.

The principal contractor is appointed by the client. Usually, the appointment of the principal contractor should be in writing. Here's an example of a principal contractor appointment document.

CDM 2015 defines the principal contractor as the contractor with control over the construction phase of the project. So the person or business appointed in this role should be in control of the work and other contractors on site. The principal contractor could be the project manager, or the main contractor, for example.

The duties of a principal contractor for health and safety at the construction phase are detailed in regulation 13 of CDM. Under regulation 12 of CDM 2015, the principal contractor also has duties relating to the construction phase plan and health and safety file.

Here are the CDM 2015 principal contractor duties explained.

Principal contractor duties

The principal contractor must be in overall control of health and safety on the site during the construction phase. They must lead the project and set health and safety standards. And they also need to plan and manage the construction phase and coordinate the work.

To meet these duties, the principal contractor must have time to plan before work starts on site. They need to prepare the sequence of work, assess the risks, and organise resources and the team.

The principal contractor must manage the works ensuring that all contractors engaged are capable, that the right equipment and tools are used, and that control measures are in place, so the work can be completed safely.

Monitoring will need to be carried out throughout the project to make sure that standards are maintained and action is taken as required to handle any issues arising from routine checks or due to near-misses or accidents on site.

The principal contractor is in overall control of the works on site, so they must ensure that all other contractors on the project cooperate and comply with the requirements of CDM and health and safety requirements in general.

The principal contractor has to ensure that every site worker and visitor receives a suitable site induction, proportionate to the nature of their work, highlighting any risks and control measures they need to know about.

The construction site induction checklist document includes a list of what should be included in your inductions.

The principal contractor should make sure that the site boundary is secure with suitable barriers and controls, and reasonable steps are taken to prevent unauthorised access. Give special consideration to any rights of way, adjacent land use and vulnerable people.

Welfare facilities must be provided from the start to the finish of the project, and be suitable for the size and nature of the work and number of people on site.

The principal contractor must ensure that welfare facilities are provided, and this will include coordinating and cooperating with other contractors, particularly regarding any special welfare requirements.

The principal contractor should liaise with the principal designer to discuss and agree on matters such as changes in design, further information needed, and the preparation of the health and safety file.

Every project must have a suitable and sufficient construction phase plan, and the principal contractor has to develop this CDM specific document.

The construction phase plan sets out the health and safety arrangements and site rules. It must be developed before work starts on the site, and should be updated and revised as necessary throughout the project, as the later stages of the work may not be planned or the full details may not be known at the start of the project.

The construction phase plan template can help you create a document for your projects covering all the required topics.

During the project, the principal contractor must provide the principal designer with any information relevant to the health and safety file, for inclusion.

This will include information relating to health and safety which is likely to be needed during any future project, use or maintenance of the finished building or structure.


Principal contractors are responsible for planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating health and safety on the construction site.

Key duties of the principal contractor include organising cooperation between contractors, coordinating health and safety legal requirements, applying the principles of prevention, providing the site induction and welfare facilities, and coordinating with other CDM duty holders.

construction hard hats

The principal contractor is also responsible for developing the construction phase plan. Under CDM 2007 this document was only required on notifiable projects, however, under CDM 2015 the construction phase plan now must be provided on all projects, regardless of size or duration.

At the pre-construction phase, the principal contractor should liaise with the client and principal designer, review the pre-construction information, prepare the construction phase plan and organise work with other contractors.

During the construction phase, the principal contractor is responsible for ensuring welfare facilities and site inductions are provided, managing the construction phase, securing the site, engaging contractors and workers, and providing management and supervision.

Post-construction, principal contractor duties include finalising their contribution to the health and safety file, and they may also be responsible for the handover of the health and safety file to the client.

The principal contractor must be capable of carrying out the role and have the right skills, knowledge, training and experience.

The principal contractor is normally a contractor so will also have contractor duties, however, there should only be one principal contractor for a project at any one time.

You can use the free CDM principal contractor toolbox talk download as a reminder of these duties.

For help carrying out the role of principal contractor, use the free CDM principal contractor guide.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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