Appointment of Principal Contractor duties ensures compliant management of health and safety on your construction project.

Under the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) a Principal Contractor is required when there is more than one contractor working on any construction project.

The term “contractor” can be confusing as the Principal Contractor does not have to be the main or managing contractor for the work – although this is often the case. 

The simplest way to understand the term Principal Contractor is to think of it as an HSE responsibility rather than a construction role. Any contractor may be appointed Principal Contractor, provided they are deemed by the HSE to have the proportionate skills, knowledge and experience for the project complexity and scale. 

FEG Principal Contractor Services
Need experienced Principal Contractor support on your project?

We are experienced in handling both Principal Contractor duties and Principal Designer duties on large-scale and complex projects. 

What are Principal Contractor Duties?

Appointed in writing by the client, the Principal Contractor’s main role is to oversee and coordinate the people involved in the project to ensure health and safety standards are being adhered to during the construction phase.  Our expert engineers have supported clients across various sectors as both Principal Contractor and Principal Designer.

In practice, these services include:


  • Liaising with the Principal Designer and client throughout the project to ensure all duty holders are fulfilling their roles, particularly the client who may be unfamiliar with their CDM duties
  • Reviewing pre-construction information the client has provided, including details about the nature of the project and client expectations, key dates and potential hazards on-site
  • Drawing up a construction phase plan which explains how health and safety will be managed during construction. This will include any pre-construction information and client requirements and covers things like key project information and dates, site team contact details, site rules and health and safety procedures
  • Appointing contractors and workers who have the necessary SKATE for the work they are carrying out. It is the Principal Contractor’s responsibility to ensure everyone on site has the right information and is aware of key dates, site rules, risks and welfare arrangements

Construction phase

  • Ensuring welfare facilities are provided, including things like toilets, rest areas, washing facilities and drinking water
  • Providing a full site induction to all workers and any occasional visitors
  • Managing the construction phase and monitoring health and safety arrangements throughout, updating the construction phase plan where necessary
  • Taking reasonable steps to secure the site and prevent unauthorised access, taking into account the site’s neighbours – e.g. residential areas, schools, public rights of way and offices
  • Providing the right management and supervision and setting an example as a health and safety leader
  • Engaging contractors and workers to ensure they are cooperating with each other and identifying any issues that arise

Project completion

  • Contributing to the health and safety file
  • If the Principal Designer finishes before the end of the construction phase the Principal Contractor becomes responsible for managing the health and safety file and handing it over to the client upon project completion
cdm principal designer

At FEG we have a senior, experienced team of engineers and project managers, time-served in Principal Contractor duties

Whoever is appointed at Principal Contractor must have adequate skills and knowledge, and training and experience (SKATE) to take on the role. This must be commensurate with the scale and complexity of the project and due diligence experience checks should be documented during selection and appointment of the Principal Contractor.

We have worked on numerous projects carrying out Principal Contractor duties across the food, power, paper & tissue and life sciences sectors. We have the technical skills and experience required to ensure the risks and safety of your project are managed in accordance with CDM 2015 Regulations.

  • Members of the ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) – recognised by HSE as a world standard
  • Experienced in Best Value Engineering
  • Qualified Electrical, Mechanical, Structural and Process Engineers
  • Trained to provide PUWER assessments, CE Marketing, ATEX and DSEAR
  • SafeContractor Scheme members
  • Safety passports for all personnel
  • Confined Space Working
  • Principal Contractor/Principal Designer time-served under CDM 2015

At FEG, we offer full CDM support and/or consultancy to ensure you meet client requirements.

What’s the difference between a Principal Contractor and a Site Manager?

Principal Contractor duties can often be confused with the role of a Site Manager. 

On paper it may seem that the roles are the same but the important thing to remember is that the appointment of Principal Contractor is a legal requirement from the HSE to ensure the health and safety of a site.

The Site Manager’s typical role is to manage and oversee the day-to-day running of a construction site, ensuring budgets and timescales are adhered to and supervising contractors and workers on site. 

In reality, the Site Manager may be accountable for carrying out many of the H&S responsibilities required but it is the Principal Contractor who must ensure that these responsibilities are outlined, documented and adhered to.

For example, one of the Principal Contractor’s roles is to provide site inductions to each worker starting on the project. These inductions might be carried out by a Site Manager, but the Principal Contractor must still ensure they contain the information required to fulfil the CDM regulations. 

A Site Manager may often be appointed Principal Contractor due to the crossover of duties but it is often prudent to have the roles separate. This gives an extra “set of eyes” to supervise the safe construction of a site.

What happens if I don’t appoint a Principal Contractor?

You have a legal responsibility to appoint a Principal Contractor if more than one contractor (in addition to the Principal Designer) is working on your project.

If you don’t appoint Principal Contractor duties you will automatically be appointed the role and will be responsible for undertaking it – which could be challenging if you don’t have the necessary SKATE.

That’s why we highly recommend that you appoint them at the earliest opportunity, to ensure full involvement with the pre-site phase.

Associated Services

In addition to Principal Contractor duties, our experienced team provide full CDM 2015 consultancy services.