30th January, 2020

CDM 2015 Roles And Responsibilities

The roles of client, principal designer, principal contractor, designers and contractors all have responsibilities under CDM. And so do workers. Under CDM, the roles are referred to as duty holders. In this blog post, we will look at what these roles are, when they apply, and what they do.

CDM 2015 Roles And Responsibilities header image

The roles of client, principal designer, principal contractor, designers and contractors all have responsibilities under CDM. And so do workers. In this blog post, we will look at what these roles are, when they apply, and what they do.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) 2015 introduced some changes to the CDM roles and responsibilities in place on construction projects in the UK. The roles needed under CDM changes slightly from the 2007 version of the regulations. Under CDM 2015, the CDM coordinator was removed, and the new role of principal designer was introduced. Due to this change, there have also been some adjustments to the responsibilities of each role.

Under CDM, the roles are referred to as duty holders. As in, if you have a role under CDM, you are a duty holder. This just simply means that you have CDM duties (responsibilities) to carry out.

CDM 2015 duty holders:

Some roles may need to be appointed, and can only be carried out one organisation or individual at any one time on a project, such as the principal designer and principal contractor roles. For example, there may be several contractors on the project, but only one contractor can be appointed as the principal contractor.

Other roles are automatically assigned and can be applied to multiple organisations or individuals on the project, such as designers and contractors. For example, every designer on the project will need to comply with designer duties and responsibilities under CDM 2015.

Under CDM 2015, any construction project (including domestic and regardless of length or notification status), with more than one contractor (including subcontractors) must have a principal designer and a principal contractor appointed.

You can check if CDM duty holders are complying with the free CDM compliance checklist.

So let's look at these duty holders, and find out more about each role, and the responsibilities that apply.

cdm roles diagram
CDM Roles



The client is the person or organisation who is having the work carried out. For example, the person paying the contractor to complete the project. A client could be commercial (construction work carried out for a business) or a domestic client (someone having work carried out in their own home).


Clients must make sure that the required duty holders are appointed, that relevant information is prepared and provided to other duty holders. Clients aren't expected to manage the project themselves but must make sure that suitable arrangements are in place for the work to be carried out safely, that welfare facilities are provided, and that the principal designer and principal contractor carry out their duties under CDM 2015.

Clients have CDM responsibilities

Principal Designer


The principal designer is the designer in overall control of the pre-construction phase. This role is required on any project with more than one contractor at any time (including subcontractors). As many projects require different trades at some point, a principal designer is needed on most construction projects. They make sure designers comply with designer duties, and take charge of health and safety matters when planning the project.


Principal designers are responsible for planning, managing and coordinating health and safety in the pre-construction phase of the project (e.g. everything up to work starting on the site). This includes preparing and providing relevant information to other duty holders, identifying, eliminating or controlling foreseeable risks, ensuring designers carry out their duties and liaising with the principal contractor to help in the planning, management and monitoring of the construction phase.

In addition to principal designer duties, the principal designer is also a designer and has the additional responsibilities of a designer.

Principal Contractor


Like the principal designer, the principal contractor role is required on any project with more than one contractor (including subcontractors). Appointed by the client, the principal contractor is in overall control of the construction phase. They have responsibility for site safety, site rules, and planning the work so that is is completed without harm.


Principal contractors are responsible for planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating the construction phase of the project, including preparing the construction phase plan, organising cooperation between contractors and coordinating their work and liaising with the client and principal designer. They must ensure that suitable site inductions are provided, prevent unauthorised access, provide welfare facilities and consult and engage workers on health and safety matters.

In addition to principal contractors duties, the principal contractor is also a contractor and has the additional responsibilities of a contractor.

principal contractor
There's only one principal contractor



Anyone who prepares or modifies a design for any part of a construction project is a designer under CDM. Unlike the principal designer, there can be more than one designer involved in a project. Sometimes, a contractor may also have designer duties, where they provide some aspect of the design or have input into the design.


All designers must eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction or maintenance when preparing or modifying designs, they must also provide relevant information to other members of the project team.



Every contractor involved in a construction project has duties under CDM. Unlike the principal contractors, there can be more than one contractor involved in a project. If there is only one contractor, they have some additional responsibilities to comply with.


All contractors must plan, manage and monitor construction work under their control so that it is carried out without risks to health and safety, including coordinating their activities with others in the project team. They comply with directions given to them by the principal designer or principal contractor. Where there is only one contractor on a project, they must prepare a construction phase plan.

There can be many contractors


Workers must be consulted on matters which affect their health, safety and welfare. They must take care of their own health and safety and those who may be affected by their actions, and report anything they see which may endanger their own or others health and safety. They must also cooperate with their employer, other workers, contractors and other duty holders.

Get a full step-by-step breakdown of your responsibilities under CDM in our free CDM duty holder guides. And check if your project is CDM ready with the CDM compliance checklist.

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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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