Role of the Principal Contractor

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 places legal duties on those involved in construction projects.

What is a Principal Contractor?

The client must appoint a principal contractor for every Notifiable Project – this is usually the main or managing contractor on a site.  The principal contractor has particular duties and responsibilities in ensuring the safe management of a site.  There can only be one principal contractor for any site at any one time.

What must a Principal Contractor do under the CDM Regulations?

The role of the principal contractor is to properly plan, manage and co-ordinate work during the construction phase in order to ensure that the risks are properly controlled. Principal Contractors must:

  • ensure that a CDM Co-ordinator has been appointed
  • ensure that they are competent to manage the health and safety issues likely to be involved in construction
  • ensure that the construction phase is properly planned, managed, monitored and resourced
  • ensure that the HSE are notified
  • ensure that a suitable Construction Phase Health and Safety Plan is: prepared before construction; developed in discussion with, and communicated to contractors affected by it; implemented; and kept up to date as the project progresses.
  • ensure suitable welfare facilities are provided from the start of the construction phase
  • ensure that every sub-contractor or contractor is informed of the minimum amount of time which they will be allowed for planning and preparation before they begin work on site
  • ensure that all sub-contractors and contractors are promptly provided with all the information about the project that they need to enable them to carry out their work safely
  • ensure co-ordination and co-operation between sub-contractors and contractors
  • comply with the requirements of Schedule 2 and Part 4 of the Regulations (these deal with issues such as welfare, emergency procedure, site safety etc.)
  • satisfy themselves that the designers and contractors that they engage are competent and adequately resourced
  • where required, report incidents to the HSE in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
  • ensure that clients are aware of their duties
  • take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised access to the site
  • prepare and enforce site rules
  • provide copies of, or access to, relevant parts of the Construction Phase Health and Safety Plan and other information to contractors in time for them to plan their work
  • provide workers under their control with any necessary information. This includes the relevant aspects of other sub-contractors and contractors’ work, a full site induction and procedures for reporting problems and responding in an emergency
  • liaise with the CDM Co-ordinator on design carried out during the construction phase
  • provide the CDM Co-ordinator promptly with information for the Health and Safety File
  • ensure that all the workers have been provided with a suitable health and safety induction, information and training
  • ensure that the workforce is consulted about health and safety matters
  • display the project notification, (F10)

Consultation, Co-operation and Co-ordination

The CDM Regulations 2007 continually stress the need for consultation, co-operation and co-ordination in the planning and management of works.  The principal contractors should pro-actively encourage discussion between all parties involved in the project.  This includes the client, CDM Co-ordinator, designers, sub-contractors and workers.

The principal contractor should consider:

  • Regular consultation meetings
  • Establishing Health and Safety Committees or forums
  • Consultation during inductions, daily briefings, toolbox talks, site wide meetings
  • Informal methods, for example during site managers walk-abouts, or during senior managers visits
  • Procedures to encourage workers to report defects, deterioration in conditions or innovations to raise standards.

Information about risks and precautions must be available to be shared when it is needed.

Safe Place of Work

The CDM Regulations 2007 include a section on ensuring that a site is a safe place of work.  This is broadly similar to the existing requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, however it does make particular reference to providing enough space for workers, and ensuring that materials with projecting nails or other sharp objects are not used or are not left in dangerous places.

Display of notification to HSE

The Principal Contractor must clearly display a copy of the most up to date information notified to HSE (the Form F10) in a place where all workers on site can read it.

Welfare Facilities

The CDM Regulations 2007 greatly increase the specification for welfare facilities that are required on site.  The Regulations also specifically require that facilities are available from the commencement of works, and that a period is allowed at the start of the contract to allow the site to be set up.  It is not acceptable to start on site and only then start thinking about welfare facilities.

The following outlines the facilities that must be available on site:

Toilet facilities

  • Adequately ventilated and lit toilets must be available on site or in readily accessible places.  Toilets must be clean and kept in good order.  Separate facilities are required for men and women unless the door is capable of being secured from the inside.

Washing facilities

  • Adequately ventilated and lit washing facilities, (including showers if required by the nature of the work or for health reasons), must be provided
  • Washing facilities must be provided in the immediate vicinity of every toilet convenience and changing room
  • Washing facilities must include clean hot and cold running water, soap or other suitable means of cleaning, and towels or other suitable means of drying
  • Separate washing facilities are required for men and women unless the door is capable of being secured from the inside (or unless the facility is for washing hands, forearms and faces only – i.e. a sink).

Drinking water

  • Drinking water must be provided
  • Drinking water supplies must be appropriately signed
  • Cups must be provided unless the supply of drinking water is in jets from which persons can drink easily.

Changing rooms and lockers

  • Changing rooms must be provided if a worker has to wear special clothing for the purposes of his work and he cannot change elsewhere
  • Separate changing rooms for men and women must be provided where necessary
  • Changing rooms must have seating and facilities to enable a person to dry clothing
  • Lockers (or other facilities for securing personal effects and clothing) must be provided.

Rest Area

Rest areas must be provided at readily accessible places.  Rest areas must:

  • include suitable arrangements to protect non-smokers from smokers, (unless the site is declared a non-smoking site)
  • have adequate tables and seating (with backs)
  • include suitable arrangements so that meals can be prepared and eaten
  • have a means for boiling water
  • be maintained at an appropriate temperature
  • where necessary, include suitable facilities for pregnant woman and nursing mothers.

Site induction, information and training

All contractors must ensure that workers have an induction and any further information and training needed for the particular work they are doing. Inductions should include:

  • a commitment to health and safety by the senior managers
  • an outline of the project
  • the individual’s immediate line manager and any other key personnel
  • any site-specific health and safety risks (e.g. access, environmental conditions on the site, contamination, hazardous substances etc)
  • site rules
  • any permit-to-work systems
  • traffic routes
  • security arrangements
  • hearing protection zones
  • arrangements for personal protective equipment, including what is needed, where to find it and how to use it
  • good housekeeping and storage of materials
  • facilities available, including welfare facilities
  • emergency procedures, including fire precautions, the action to take in the event of a fire, escape routes, assembly points, responsible people, the safe use of any fire-fighting equipment and arrangements for first aid
  • arrangements for reporting accidents
  • details of any planned training, such as ‘toolbox’ talks
  • arrangements for consulting and involving workers in health and safety, including the information about the individual’s responsibilities for health and safety.

Goddard Consulting recommend that a log of inductions is kept that workers sign, to indicate that they have received a site induction.

Workers who speak little English

The Approved Code of Practice makes particular reference to making special arrangements for workers who speak little English.  Principal contractors should consider translating documents, using interpreters and pictorial diagrams.

Site Rules

The CDM Regulations 2007 make particular reference to the need for written site rules to be displayed on site.  These must be understandable, enforced and brought to the attention of those who have to follow them.  They should include not only general rules but specific issues such as restricted areas, permits-to-work, hot works and emergency plans.

Emergency procedures

There must be an emergency plan on site that deals with all foreseeable emergencies.  Everyone must be informed of the plan and it must be tested.  The plan must take into account:

  • the type of work on site
  • the characteristics and size of the construction site
  • the number and location of places of work on that site
  • the equipment being used
  • the number of persons likely to be present on the site at any one time
  • any substances or materials on or likely to be on the site

Emergency routes and exits

There must be suitable escape routes on site that lead to a place of safety.  Escape routes must be free from obstructions and clearly signed.


There must be adequate fire-fighting equipment, fire detection and fire alarms on site.  These must be maintained, signed and people must be adequately trained in the emergency procedures.


Vehicle operators must give warning to those at risk from the vehicles movement. Workers must be prevented from riding on vehicles unsafely and remaining on vehicles whilst they are being loaded.  Vehicles must be secured against unintended movement, be driven and operated safely, be loaded safely and be prevented from overturning or from falling into excavations and water.

Traffic Routes

Sites must be organised so that vehicles and pedestrians can move about safely.  Traffic routes must:

  • be suitable for the vehicle or pedestrian using them
  • be suitably sized
  • be adequately signed
  • be regularly checked
  • be properly maintained
  • be free from obstructions
  • allow vehicles and pedestrians to use it without causing a danger to others
  • not create a danger to pedestrians using doors or gates that lead onto the route
  • allow for a separation of vehicles and pedestrians where possible.
  • provide a means for protecting pedestrians
  • provide a means of warning pedestrians of approaching vehicles in areas where there is a risk that they may be crushed or trapped
  • provide a dedicated pedestrian access if a vehicle gate cannot be safely used by pedestrians.

Site Security

A Principal Contractor must take reasonable steps to prevent access by unauthorised persons to the construction site.  The authorisation may cover the whole site or be restricted to certain areas.  Authorised people should be inducted and have relevant site rules explained to them.  Some authorised visitors may need to be supervised or accompanied while on site or visiting specific areas.  How access is controlled depends on the nature of the project, the risks and location.

The boundaries of all sites should be physically defined by suitable fencing.  The type of fencing should reflect the nature of the site and its surroundings.  Special consideration is needed where:

  • rights of way cross sites
  • sites are in, or next to, other work areas
  • new houses are being built on a development where some houses are already occupied
  • there are children or other vulnerable people nearby

The effectiveness of the arrangements should be reviewed in the light of experience.  In particular, security should be reviewed if there is evidence of children playing on, or near the site.


Electrical supplies must be suitably located, checked and signed.  If there is a safety risk from electricity, people must be moved away from it and the power isolated.  If this is not possible barriers must be erected.  There is a particular requirement for risk assessment and a risk reduction exercise when dealing with underground services.

Structural work

Contractors must ensure that structures are safe and do not collapse.  Temporary support must be designed to withstand any foreseeable loading.

Demolition work

Contractors must ensure that demolition works are conducted safely.  The Regulations specifically require a written plan to be in place prior to any demolition work.


Contractors must ensure that:

  • ground adjacent to excavations is not overloaded
  • excavations do not collapse
  • people and materials do not fall into the excavation
  • persons are not buried or trapped in excavations
  • materials and equipment used for excavation is checked by a competent person at the start of a shift, after an event that affects the stability of an excavation or after any material has fallen into an excavation.  (The Regulations also explain in detail the inspection reports required.)

Fresh Air

There must be adequate fresh or purified air.  Any plant used to purify air must give a clear warning of its failure.

Temperature and weather

Indoor work must be conducted at a reasonable temperature.  Outdoor workers must be provided with clothing or equipment to keep them protected.


Works must be adequately lit.  Where artificial lights are used they must not change the perception of signs and signals.

Cofferdams and Caissons

Cofferdams must be suitably designed and constructed, appropriately equipped so people can escape in the event of failure, properly maintained and checked by a competent person at the start of a shift and after an event that affects the strength.  (The Regulations also explain in detail the inspection reports required.)


When working near water people must be prevented from falling in, and prevented from drowning if they do fall in.  Rescue equipment must be provided and adequately maintained.

Flood and asphyxiation

The regulations specifically require measures to be in place to prevent floods and asphyxiation.