Who Are The CDM 2015 Duty Holders? header image

3rd March, 2020

Who Are The CDM 2015 Duty Holders?

CDM stands for the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. The latest version is the 2015 version, and it is the law that applies to all construction work. There are 5 main duty holders under CDM 2015 you need to know about. These are the people (or businesses) that carry out the duties required under CDM.

Some of these duty holders are appointed automatically, and some need to be appointed in writing. But each duty holder has an important role to play under CDM, and the failure of one duty holder could be a problem for the others.

The CDM 2015 duty holders are:

  • Client
  • Principal Designer
  • Principal Contractor
  • Designers
  • Contractors

While there are 5 duty holders defined under CDM, there could be multiple designers and contractors appointed on a construction project. This means that there can be many more than 5 duty holders on site. You might have 3 designers, and 5 contractors for example. This is one of the reasons why there are two principal duty holders, the principal designer and the principal contractor.

The two principal duty holders (the principal designer and the principal contractor) have the overall responsibility of the other duty holders. For example, the principal designer has overall responsibility for the designers. And the principal contractor has overall responsibility for the contractors.

Each duty holder must coordinate and cooperate with other duty holders, to share information, like health and safety hazards and risks, and work together to achieve health and safety goals.

cdm dutyholders
Everyone works together to comply with CDM

Every contractor must comply with the duties of a contractor under CDM, and every designer must comply with the duties of a designer. If a contractor is also carrying out any design work, then they will have both contractor and designer duties. Although there can be multiple contractors and designers, there can only be one principal designer and one principal contractor appointed by the client.

The principal designer is in overall charge of health and safety at the pre-construction phase of the project, and design risk information and decisions will flow through the principal designer to be shared with relevant people in the team.

The principal contractor is in overall control of health and safety during the construction phase, and site health and safety decisions, queries and information will be managed and coordinated by the principal contractor.

Workers also have duties under CDM. But, the responsibilities to take care of their own health and safety and that of others, cooperate and be consulted are similar to the duties of all employees under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. This applies in all workplaces, not just construction sites.

Client

The Client is the first duty holder to exist on the project. This is the person or organisation having the construction project carried out. Who the client is will usually be obvious, if John gets a contractor to replace his roof, John is the client. If a business gets a contractor to refurbish their office, the business is the client.

“client” means any person for whom a project is carried out;

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Interpretation

Clients may not be carrying out any of the work themselves, but they have important legal duties under CDM* including appointing other duty holders and making sure duties are carried out, allowing sufficient time and resources, and ensuring relevant information is prepared and provided.

*domestic clients duties are transferred to other duty holders when work is being done in their own or family home and not connected to any business.

Get to grips with client duties in our free CDM duty holder guide for clients.

Principal Designer

The principal designer is the designer in overall control of the pre-construction phase. This will often be the main architect. On projects with more than one contractor (including subcontractors and contractors not appointed by the client), a principal designer must be appointed in writing. There can only be one principal designer appointed on a project at any time.

Where a client does not appoint a principal designer, they automatically become responsible for the responsibilities of the Principal Designer (apart from domestic clients where the principal designer can be appointed automatically).

principal designer
The principal designer is the designer in overall control of the pre-construction phase

The principal designer has responsibilities for preparing and providing information, and planning, managing and monitoring the pre-construction phase health and safety arrangements. This includes identifying and controlling risks during project preparation, and ensuring other designers carry out their duties.

Find out more in the free CDM duty holder guide for principal designers.

Principal Contractor

The principal contractor is the contractor in overall control of the construction phase. This will often be the main contractor. Again, this role must be appointed by the client on any project with more than one contractor (including subcontractors and contractors not appointed by the client). There can only be one principal contractor appointed on a project at any time.

And again, failure to appoint a principal contractor means the client automatically becomes responsible for the responsibilities of the principal contractor (apart from domestic clients where the principal contractor would be appointed automatically).

Principal contractors are responsible for planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating the construction phase of the project, including preparing documents, organising, cooperating, managing and liaising with other duty holders. They must ensure site inductions are provided, prevent unauthorised access, provide welfare facilities and consult and engage workers on health and safety matters.

Follow your duties step-by-step in the free CDM duty holder guide for the principal contractor.

Designers

Any person preparing or modifying designs for a building, product or system relating to construction work is a designer under CDM. Examples include architects, engineers, design & build contractors, manufacturers, and sometimes clients and contractors. This duty holder is therefore appointed automatically, so if you carry out design work on a construction project, you are a designer under CDM and must comply with the CDM duties.

“designer” means any person (including a client, contractor or other person referred to in these Regulations) who in the course or furtherance of a business—

  1. prepares or modifies a design; or
  2. arranges for, or instructs, any person under their control to do so,

relating to a structure, or to a product or mechanical or electrical system intended for a particular structure, and a person is deemed to prepare a design where a design is prepared by a person under their control;

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Interpretation

While there can only be one principal designer appointed at any time, there could be multiple designers. And designer duties apply on every construction project, of any type and any duration.

As CDM duty holders, designers must eliminate, reduce and control foreseeable risks that may arise from the design during construction or future maintenance. Designers must also provide information to other members of the project including information for the pre-construction information and health and safety file.

You can find out more about the duties of designers in our free CDM duty holder guide for designers.

Contractors

Contractors are those who carry out the construction work. This could be a scaffolder, a bricklayer, an electrician, or the main contractor. As with designers, there can be many contractor duty holders on a project. This duty holder is appointed automatically, so if you carry out construction work, you are a contractor under CDM and must comply with the CDM duties.

While there can only be one principal contractor appointed at any time, there could be multiple contractors. And contractor duties apply on every construction project, of any type and any duration.

contractor
Contractors are those who carry out the construction work

Contractors need to plan, manage and monitor the construction work under their control to that is carried out safely, coordinate their activities with other contractors, and comply with directions from the principal contractor and principal designer.

On single contractor projects (where there is no principal contractor) the single contractor has some extra duties including creating the construction phase plan and managing the construction phase.

You can find out more about the duties of contractors in our free CDM duty holder guide for contractors.


If you need help complying with CDM duties, get our free CDM duty holder guides for more support. 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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