We take you through the intracacies of appointing a Principal Designer under CDM 2015

The intention of CDM 2015 is to embed design risk management firmly within the design process.  Unfortunately on many projects no single designer has the breadth of skills, knowledge and experience to take on that role.  We are finding that many Lead Designers are reluctant to expand their services into the field of CDM Principal Designer. As a result, EPCA are finding that there is still strong demand for our specialist CDM services.

Option 1: The Lead Designer is competent to act as Principal Designer

This flow chart shows the intention of CDM 2015, where the Lead Designer, eg an architect, is competent to act as Principal Designer.  The intention is to fully embed design risk management within the overall design process.

Unfortunately, many design practices do not have the requisite health and safety expertise in-house.  This is particularly where the role involves taking responsibility for health and safety across a range of design disciplines.  For example many lead designers may not be comfortable dealing with health and safety design risk arising from civil, structural or building services engineering.

Option 2: The Lead Designer accepts an Appointment as Principal Designer, and is assisted by a CDM Adviser

In some circumstances the Lead Designer may accept the role of Principal Designer, but put in place a sub-contract with a CDM Adviser to assist with the role.  In our experience this has not been a popular choice for Lead Designers. If things go wrong, they may well have civil redress against the CDM Adviser for negligent advice, but criminal liability arising from the statutory duties of a Principal Designer may well rest with them.

Option 3: A Specialist CDM Principal Designer is Appointed

In circumstances where the Lead Designer is not competent, or unwilling, to act as Principal Designer, the client can appoint a specialist.

CDM 2015 allows for appointment of a Principal Designer who is not the Lead Designer and has no design duties other than dealing specifically with the health and safety aspects of the design.  Its important that the specialist Principal Designer is a construction designer and has the health and safety experience required for the project. EPCA provide this service.

Why Appoint a Specialist CDM Principal Designer?


The Specialist Principal Designer is independent from each designer and contractor and can provide independent health and safety advice throughout the project.

Further complications arise if the project is to be procured on a design and build basis, where the design team are commonly novated to the contractor. In this scenario, the Principal Designer could be appointed by the main contractor with no direct contractual link to the Client. The direct appointment of a specialist Principal Designer ensures the role remains independent.


Clients are free to appoint their lead designers to the Principal Designer role, but only where that designer has the necessary skills and knowledge to fulfil the role.

EPCA is perfectly positioned to fulfil the new Principal Designer role. We have a long track record in design risk management and have provided advice to clients and consultants on the application of the CDM Regulations for many years. In addition, as Chartered Building Surveyors we are experienced construction designers in a range of project types.


We ensure that designers have considered the health and safety risks during the whole life cycle of the building, as well as the initial construction phase.

As Chartered Building Surveyors we specialise in the design of repair, maintenance, and cleaning operations to buildings.

EPCA has dealt with the health and safety implications of a whole range of construction and property management areas including

  • Contaminated land
  • Asbestos
  • Construction and Occupational Fire Safety
  • Construction methodology and programming
  • Temporary works including scaffolding
  • Mechanical, electrical and specialist engineering installations
  • Access strategy and equipment
  • Cleaning and maintenance
  • Refurbishment and alteration


A specialist Principal Designer is focussed on the health and safety aspects of design. For a Lead Designer acting as Principal Designer health and safety is just one of a long list of design duties to be provided.


Under CDM 2015, our CDM Principal Designer services are growing from strength to strength.  Please contact us for advice on CDM 2015 and any other aspect of health and safety in construction.