30th July, 2020

The 4 CDM Duties Of A Designer

Nearly everyone involved in construction has duties under CDM, including designers. And that doesn't just mean the architect. Anyone who prepares or modifies a design for construction is a designer under CDM. In this blog post, we take a look at the 4 CDM duties of a designer.

The 4 CDM Duties Of A Designer header image

If you are preparing a design to be used in construction, whether you're designing the entire building, a part of it, a single element, or another type of structure or service, you are classed as a designer under CDM. This means you need to apply CDM and fulfil the designer duties.

But what are the duties of a designer under CDM? CDM can sometimes feel overwhelming. The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (known as CDM) are a set of regulations that apply to every construction project in Great Britain. In fact, they apply to all construction work. And including 5 parts, 39 regulations, and a further 5 additional sections, CDM can be quite a lot to get your head around.

But only one out of those 39 regulations is specific to designers, and that is regulation 9 - duties of designers. And regulation 9 only contains four specific duties for designers, which seems much less daunting.

I'm going to be upfront here and also mention regulation 8 - general duties. Designers will also need to comply with the general duties, but chances are, you probably already do. But we will go through those as well just to be on the safe side. Then we will breeze through the four designer duties, and add on some free resources so you are fully prepared to tackle CDM with a smile on your face.

General Duties

The general duties under CDM apply to everyone working on a project, designers, contractors, the principal designer and the principal contractor. So, as a designer, you need to be aware of and comply with them. But so must everyone else.

Your general duties as a designer are that you:

Designer Duty 1

(1) A designer must not commence work in relation to a project unless satisfied that the client is aware of the duties owed by the client under these Regulations.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Regulation 9

Your first specific duty as a designer under CDM is to make sure that the client is aware of their duties under CDM. If there's a principal designer appointed, the good news is, they also have this duty and have probably already done this, so a simple check with the client or principal designer is all that's required for designers in most cases. However, if it's a single contractor project or a principal designer has not yet been appointed, you may need to make the client aware of their duties, especially if they are not familiar with CDM.

Designer Duty 2

(2) When preparing or modifying a design the designer must take into account the general principles of prevention and any pre-construction information to eliminate, so far as is reasonably practicable, foreseeable risks to the health or safety of any person—

  1. carrying out or liable to be affected by construction work;
  2. maintaining or cleaning a structure; or
  3. using a structure designed as a workplace.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Regulation 9

Your next duty is to eliminate as much risk as you can from your design. The principles of prevention tell us that the best way to control risk is to avoid it. Remember, someone is going to build what you design. Someone else is going to clean and maintain it. Someone else will use it. And finally, someone may one day remove or demolish it. What risks will they face? Can these be eliminated?

Designer Duty 3

(3) If it is not possible to eliminate these risks, the designer must, so far as is reasonably practicable—

  1. take steps to reduce or, if that is not possible, control the risks through the subsequent design process;
  2. provide information about those risks to the principal designer; and
  3. ensure appropriate information is included in the health and safety file.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Regulation 9

Your third designer duty is to reduce or control any risks that you have not been able to eliminate from your designs. You should also provide information about those risks to the principal designer. They will then get communicated to the rest of the project team, and the risks can be considered in the greater context of the project as a whole.

Where necessary, information on the risks will be included in CDM project information, like the pre-construction information for risks that are relevant during the build, and the health and safety file for risks that remain after project completion.

Designer Duty 4

(4) A designer must take all reasonable steps to provide, with the design, sufficient information about the design, construction or maintenance of the structure, to adequately assist the client, other designers and contractors to comply with their duties under these Regulations.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Regulation 9

The final CDM designer duty is to provide sufficient information with your designs. Now, they do say a picture speaks a thousand words, and while there is much truth in that, often with construction design, you need to supply additional information. This information might include measurements, sequences, specifications, or any assumptions you have made. You may need to highlight any unusual hazards that are present in your design. You don't need to go overboard here, only include relevant information, but remember, what seems obvious to you might not be to the person who is building or installing during construction.


And that's the 4 CDM duties of a designer! Now we promised some free resources, so here's a free CDM duty holder guide for designers, a free CDM compliance checklist, and a free CDM designer toolbox talk.

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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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