Principal Designers: Roles and Responsibilities

A Principal Designer (PD) is a designer who is an organisation or individual (on smaller projects) appointed by the client to take control of the pre-construction phase of any project involving more than one contractor.  PDs have an important role in influencing how risks to health and safety are managed throughout a project.  Design decisions made during the pre-construction phase have a significant influence in ensuring the project is delivered in a way that secures the health and safety of everyone affected by the work.

The PD must:

Plan, manage, monitor and coordinate

Plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety in the pre-construction phase.  They must take account of relevant information (such as an existing health and safety file) that might affect design work carried out both before and after the construction phase has started.


Help and advise the client

Help and advise the client in bringing together pre-construction information, and provide the information designers and contractors need to carry out their duties.


Work with other designers

Work with any other designers on the project to eliminate foreseeable health and safety risks to anyone affected by the work and, where that is not possible, take steps to reduce or control those risks.


Co-ordinate all team members

Ensure that everyone involved in the pre-construction phase communicates and cooperates, coordinating their work wherever required.


Liaise with the Principal Contractor

Liaise with the Principal Contractor, keeping them informed of any risks that need to be controlled during the construction phase.


Domestic clients

On a domestic client project where the domestic client does not appoint a PD, the role of the PD must be carried out by the designer in control of the pre-construction phase.  When working for a domestic client, the client duties will normally be taken on by another duty holder (often the Principal Contractor on projects involving more than one contractor).  However, the PD can enter into a written agreement with the domestic client to take on the client duties in addition to their own.