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Client CDM Duties

Dr. Khalid Bhutto Articles

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What are Client Duties under CDM Regulations?

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM Regulations) place certain legal duties on main parties involved in a construction project (i.e.,Client, Designers, Principal Designers, Principal Contractor and Contractors) to ensure that health and safety issues are addressed throughout all stages of the project.

In essence, a Client on a construction project in the UK is required to do the following three things to complete their legal requirements under the CDM Regulations 2015.

  1. Appoint a Principal Designer
  2. Appoint a Principal Contractor
  3. Fulfil rest of their Client Duties

Each one of the above requirements is explained as follows:

Construction Client CDM

Appoint a Principal Designer

A Principal Designer is mainly responsible for health and safety aspects of the project design. It is not the same as a Lead Consultant or a Lead Designer. Either the architect already involved in the project could offer the service to act as the Principal Designer or someone independent and external could be appointed to act as the Principal Designer. There are two things to be careful with as a Client when making this appointment.

  • (a) the appointment must be in writing (either formally by a letter or an email) and;
  • (b) the appointed Principal Designer must be competent to complete the role.

Please see the section Principal Designer FAQs for role and responsibilities, competency and other frequently asked questions about a Principal Designer.

Appoint a Principal Contractor

A Principal Contractor is mainly responsible for health and safety aspects of the construction phase (site activities) of a building project.

Any reputable construction contractor should be able to act as a Principal Contractor .

As with the Principal Designer appointment above, the Client has to be careful with the same two things, as follows, when appointing a Principal Contractor.

  • (a) The appointment must be in writing (either formally by a letter or an email) and;
  • (b) The appointed Principal Contractor must be competent to fulfil the role and responsibilities as legally required and keep the site works safe. For a simple average size project (say up to a £0.5m project work) a Principal Contractor with a valid and relevant level SSIP member registration (i.e. CHAS, Constructionline or SMAS Accreditation etc) may be regarded as sufficient to prove their competency. The appointed Principal Designer should also be able to help in assessing the competency of a Principal Contractor.

Please see the section Principal Contractor Guide for the legal duties that a Principal Contractor has to complete on a construction project.

Fulfil their Client Duties

In addition to the appointment of a Principal Designer and a Principal Contractor, a construction Client (except for a Domestic Project Client) has other legal duties to complete as well. These duties are provided in detail in the section Client Duties in Detail below. Please note that the Client duties cannot be transferred or passed on to anyone else in the project team i.e. the liability for fulfilling these legal duties will remain with the Client, however, a Client could appoint an external consultant to act as their advisor commonly termed as Client CDM Advisor or a CDM Consultant to help with fulfil their Client duties. This means that the appointed external Client CDM Advisor or a CDM Consultant is contractually responsible to assist the Client with fulfilling their duties, however, as mentioned before the legal liability will still remain with the Client. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the appointed person or organisation is competent.

CDM Client

The original references from the CDM Regulations that specify the above Client Duties are provided in the section Client Duties with References to CDM Regulations below for your information and attention. Further guidance on Client Duties is also available from relevant HSE Guidance L153, INDG411 and CITB.

Why Client's Role is Important?

Construction work by its very nature can be hazardous. It makes a Client's role very important and essential in ensuring that their construction project is designed considering the health and safety aspects during construction and the post completion (i.e., its use, cleaning, maintenance and access etc in a safe manner) and that the construction work is completed without any accidents on site or damage to the property.

Of course, a construction Client has certain legal duties to comply with under the CDM Regulations, however, beyond the compliance and legal requirements, no Client would like to have accidents on their site or having a property built which is not safe to be; used for its intended purpose, cleaned, maintained, or having access issues. The accidents cause unnecessary injuries or even fatalities, cause major delays to a project, and a financial impact and reputational damage to the Client in addition to all those who are involved in the project.

It is therefore in Client's interest that they set the scene and standards for health and safety, right from the beginning, that will be expected from all those who are involved with their construction project. This is not an additional requirement on those parties. They are already obliged to comply with their legal health and safety requirements under the CDM Regulations.

Client Duties in Detail

The main Client duties are as follows:


A Client:

  1. must make suitable arrangements for managing a project.
  2. must arrangement for suitable Welfare Facilities.
  3. must ensure that above arrangements are maintained and reviewed throughout the project.
  4. must provide Pre-construction Information (PCI).
  5. must ensure a Construction Phase Plan (CPP) is in place before construction phase begins.
  6. must appoint (in writing) a Principal Designer and a Principal Contractor on projects involving more than one contractor.
  7. must take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that the appointed Principal Designer, Principal Contractor and other designers and contractors have appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and organisational capability to fulfil the role.
  8. must ensure that Principal Designer prepares a Health and Safety File.
  9. must take reasonable steps to ensure that Principal Designer and Principal Contractor comply with their duties.
  10. must notify Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (i.e. send F10 notification) before construction phase begins for projects expected to meet the notification threshold.
  11. should provide Health and Safety File when selling the building/structure and ensure that the buyers are aware of the nature and purpose of the File .

* Except the Domestic Client projects - please see below


(A Domestic Client is defined as a Client for whom a project is being carried out which is not in the course or furtherance of a business of that Client.)

Where the Client is a Domestic Client the duties listed above must be carried out by:

The Client must appoint (in writing) a Principal Designer and a Principal Contractor on projects involving more than one contractor.

Please note that if a Domestic Client fails to make the above legal appointments of Principal Designer and a Principal Contractor then the designer in control of the pre-construction phase of the project is the Principal Designer by default and the contractor in control of the construction phase of the project become the Principal Contractor by default.

Client CDM Duties

Client Duties with References to CDM Regulations

Regulation 4, 5, 6 and 8 of the CDM Regulations 2015 list the duties of a Client on a project and they are as follows:

Please see details of Safescope Client CDM Advisor service.

CDM 2015 Guidance

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Dr. Khalid Bhutto - Safescope
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