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870 Principal Designers’ obligations for temporary works

Report ID: 870

Published: Newsletter 57 - January 2020

Report Overview

A correspondent believes that the new BS 5975:2019 standard places some onerous duties on the Principal Designer.

Report Content

A correspondent has contacted CROSS as they are concerned by the Principal Designer’s obligations for temporary works as stated in Clause 8.5 of the new BS 5975:2019 standard (Code of practice for temporary works procedures and the permissible stress design of falsework).

They believe that the standard places some onerous duties on the Principal Designer which are a long way removed from site work and question whether many Principal Designer organisations will have the competence to coordinate temporary works designs in an effective manner.

They worry that we have gone from a single ultimate point of responsibility for temporary works to a situation where there is a confusing overlap of duties, roles and responsibilities.

The correspondent concludes by asking if anyone is aware of any guidance on how this will work in practice?


The Temporary Works forum (TWf) is a source of useful information on this topic, including the publication of Information Sheet 3 - CDM 2015 - Principal Designer: Guidance on Temporary Works in 2017. This document states that the Principal Designer should, at an early stage, discuss and agree with the Client their approach to the delivery of the role with respect to temporary works. Another useful reference is the Temporary Works Toolkit published in The Structural Engineer.

It is important to remember the distinction between the duties as required by law, and recommendations provided by industry guidance. CDM 2015 sets out the legal duties of the Principal Designer, whereas BS 5975 provides authoritative industry guidance on how those legal duties might be complied with. The Principal Designer is free to ignore the guidance if they wish, or do something different, but ultimately they must ensure that they comply with their lawful duties as set out in CDM 2015.

Further to this, CDM 2015 does not distinguish between permanent works design and temporary works design; they are both design as far as CDM 2015 is concerned with the same duties imposed on Designers and Principal Designers of both permanent and temporary works.

It is up to those organisations providing Principal Designer services to ensure that they have the necessary capability to undertake the role either in-house or by making suitable arrangements to supplement their capabilities. If not, they are potentially in breach of CDM 2015 Regulation 8(1) which requires that “A designer (including a principal designer) or contractor (including a principal contractor) appointed to work on a project must have the skills, knowledge and experience and, if they are an organisation, the organisational capability, necessary to fulfil the role that they are appointed to undertake, in a manner that secures the health and safety of any person affected by the project.”

The statements and intent within the updated BS 5975 look to direct Clients to engage Principal Designers that can provide the support that CDM 2015 intends, with guidance on temporary works coordination and the consideration of permanent works and buildability.

Items which a Principal Designer could consider in relation to temporary works include:

  • ensure that the permanent works designers have identified a coherent construction method which identifies all key temporary works requirements;
  • ensure that adequate temporary works coordination processes are in place;
  • ensure effective communication between permanent works designers and temporary works designers;
  • provide relevant information that may affect temporary works;
  • if temporary works (and their risks) can be eliminated by designing the permanent works in a different manner;
  • how risks for temporary works, if they are required, can be minimised;
  • determining is there sufficient space for temporary works during construction, maintenance and demolition;
  • determining if other stakeholders need to be consulted about any temporary works.

There may be other considerations depending upon the circumstances.


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