Who are the Duty Holders in Construction Design and Management (CDM) Projects?

Who are the Duty Holders in Construction Design and Management (CDM) Projects?

Construction projects are dangerous and require proper management, and clear roles and responsibilities, with the health and safety of workers paramount in terms of priorities. The Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations are for three types of duty holders; clients, designers, and contractors. 

It is important to know the aspects of safety and risks that are present in construction sites and projects. If any managers and duty holders need to revitalise their construction safety knowledge, they can take an online IOSH managing safety refresher course to touch up on what they should look out for.

What is a Duty Holder?

A duty holder in CDM is the person or persons responsible for certain aspects of a building and project. A duty holder’s general responsibilities prioritise maintaining standards in both quality of work and the health and safety ensured to prevent risk and accidents in the project.

Client Responsibilities in CDM

The client in a construction project can either be an individual entity or an organisational entity. They are the ones for whom the construction project is being carried out in the first place. Usually, the responsibilities of the client depend on the type of client, as most regular people will not have the knowledge or the capability to ensure the responsibilities imposed by the CDM regulations.

Domestic vs Commercial Clients

There are two main types of clients that CDM regulations point toward, which are domestic or commercial clients. Domestic clients are civilians and the general public, whereas a commercial client is an entity commissioning construction work for their business.

A domestic client will have their construction work carried out on their property, which can be a home or any property that is not part of a business. Any property that registered to a business, regardless of profit intent, will label the client as a commercial client instead.

Domestic clients do not have full client duties, though commercial clients are fully responsible for ensuring they comply with CDM regulations. For domestic clients, duty holders are appointed and their responsibility is passed on to that duty holder.

Full client duties include:

  • Ensuring duty holders are appointed where necessary (for domestic clients)
  • Make certain that adequate time, resources, and any other requirements allocated
  • Ensure that the necessary and relevant information provided to other duty holders and personnel
  • Also, Ensure that the responsibilities of the project carried out by the principal designer and contractor
  • Ensure those welfare facilities provided to all personnel requiring them

The domestic client can transfer the CDM responsibilities to the principal contractor, which a written agreement to do so if necessary.

Designers and Principal Designers in CDM

Designers are the duty holders who prepare for construction projects and create or modify designs for the building constructed.

  • In the planning and preparation phase, a designer is responsible for ensuring that the design of the building actively looks out to reduce potential risks in the construction phase
  • The designer has to ensure that maintenance shafts and other areas accounted for and safe to use in their designs.
  • Designers also have to provide necessary information to the team and the workers to help them conduct work where and when necessary.

A principal designer is appointed when there is more than one designer. Also, A principal design appointed by the client. A principal design can be an organisational entity or an individual. The designer has to have the necessary experience, knowledge, and capability of conducting the principal designer role.

A principal designer manages pre-construction designs and planning and monitors all the work being conducted. They also manage other designers. Their responsibilities include:

  • To ensure that all designers appointed to the project carry out their roles and duties
  • To identify any foreseeable risk during pre-construction planning
  • Provide information to other duty holders relevant to designs in CDM
  • Communicate and coordinate with the principal contractor when conducting planning and other designer duties
  • Coordinate with duty holders during the construction phase of the project

Contractors and the Principal Contractor

A contractor is an organisational entity that employs workers in a construction project. While workers themselves perform the construction, the contractor is responsible for managing them, following the necessary worker rules and regulations, and ensuring their safety.

A principal contractor is an appointment in a project with multiple contractors, who are selected by the client. Contractors have to plan and manage construction and monitor for quality assurance and potential risks so that they can prepare for worker safety. A principal contractor also coordinates with the principal designer to ensure that the design and planning phase of the construction is smooth and risk-averse.

A principal contractor has to:

  • Coordinate with the designer
  • Prepare the construction plans and phases
  • Organise how other contractors communicate and coordinate
  • Provide welfare facilities for workers
  • Also, Provide health and safety necessities for workers
  • Provide instructions, training, and other necessities for conducting construction work

Construction workers employed by the contractor, but the management aspects in CDM are still with the client, the designers, and the contractors.


Construction is a dangerous job, and construction projects are among the riskiest and most accident-prone work areas. To properly determine safety measures, one must know the people responsible, as well as the responsibilities they have in such projects. 

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