What is a Principal Contractor in Construction?

‘‘What’s a Principal Contractor,’’ you ask?  Good question!  If you’re undertaking a commercial refurbishment project of any kind (perhaps involving a mezzanine floor installation, new suspended ceiling or partitioning system for example), then you’ll need a Principal Contractor.

A Principal Contractor will be responsible for the entire construction phase of your project and is a necessary role to fill for all commercial (and domestic) refurbishments involving more than one contractor.  From the planning and co-ordination to the management and execution, a Principal Contractor is liable for it all (including all health and safety measures).

Principal Contractor Vs Principal Designer
The role of Principal Contractor is different from the role of Principal Designer.  We know the Principal Contractor is responsible for the construction phase as a whole (in particular all health and safety elements).  But what is the Principal Designer responsible for and how do these roles differ?

The Principal Designer is responsible for the pre-construction phase of the project managing all estimating, planning and design tasks.  Just like the role of Principal Contractor, a Principal Designer is always required on a commercial fit out project with more than one contractor, and there can only be one appointed at any time.  The duties of the Principal Designer don’t stop when construction starts.  In fact, their responsibilities carry on throughout the project, until completion, and they work alongside the Principal Contactor.

Many companies appoint separate Principal Contactors and Principal Designers for their commercial construction work, but we thought you might like to know they can be the same person/business.  Pretty handy, right?

Do I really need a Principal Contractor?
Yes (and it could be Cubex, but more on that in a mo)!  A Principal Contractor must be appointed in writing as early on in the project as possible, before the construction phase begins.  The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) are the main set of regulations for managing the health, safety and welfare of construction projects.  CDM applies to all building and construction work and includes new build, demolition, refurbishment, extensions, conversions, repair and maintenance.  Every commercial refurbishment project must have a Principal Contractor, and if you don’t have one, then it’s you!

It’s not always common knowledge, but businesses need to appoint a Principal Contractor to confirm who will take liability of their workplace refurbishment and by extension, any health and safety issues that might occur.  Not all external construction teams have the accreditations required to act as a Principal Contractor on behalf of their clients, and so if nobody is officially appointed then in this case the role (and all associated risks) falls to the client.

Principal Contractor: Skills, Knowledge and Experience (SKE)
An external Principal Contractor must be able to demonstrate that they have the skills, knowledge, experience (SKE) and, where an organisation, the organisational capability to carry out the work they are being appointed for.

Examples of demonstrating SKE might include:

  • Records of continuing professional development (CPD) including training records.
  • Membership of professional bodies.
  • References from previous construction work.

Examples of demonstrating organisational capability might involve:

  • Using pre-qualification assessment services from third party assessors such as those who are members of Safety Schemes in Procurement Forum (SSIP).
  • Self-assessing using the standard health and safety pre-qualification questions in Publicly Available Specification PAS 91.

Thankfully for clients of Cubex Contracts, we have been assessed and gained the necessary accreditations to act as the Principal Contractor of your office, retail or industrial refurbishment – big or small!  In fact, take a look at our annual certificates confirming our compliance with all necessary standards and legislations (click on the tiles below):

Principal Contractor: Roles and Responsibilities
The Principal Contractor is responsible for the planning, management, monitoring and co-ordination of the entire construction phase.  And, as you already now know, it is also their responsibility to manage all health and safety risks throughout construction.  This includes:

  • Confirming that anyone appointed to undertake the construction works has the skills, knowledge and experience (SKE) for this specific project in order to work safely and without risk to health.
  • Ensuring all workers have site-specific inductions in addition to any other information and training they might need.
  • Engaging with workers about their health, safety and welfare.
  • Ensuring suitable welfare facilities are provided from the start and maintained throughout the construction.

What you may not know is that the health and safety management extends to risks posed to members of the public too.  Although there shouldn’t ever be any members of public onsite (it is also the responsibility of the Principal Contractor to prevent any unauthorised access), they need to consider site access and parking facilities for example, particularly if these are shared with other businesses or the general public.

The Principal Contractor will also need to prepare a written construction phase plan (PDF) before the construction phase begins.  This plan is to then be implemented and regularly reviewed (and, if necessary, revised) to ensure it remains fit for purpose throughout the entirety of the refurb project.

It’s fair to say there are many plates to spin in the role of Principal Contractor, it’s no wonder so many businesses looking to maximise their commercial space want to appoint an external team to fulfill this role.

Undertaking a new workplace project is an incredibly exciting time, but it can also be very daunting.  But with Cubex Contracts there’s no need to fret as we’re in it for the duration, acting as your Principal Contractor to plan, manage, monitor and co-ordinate all elements of your commercial construction project.

We’ve been established for over 25 years and know a thing or two about design, management and execution of workplace refurbishments.  We also understand how important it is to know and trust the individuals you’re working with.  We bet you’ll be pleased to know the Cubex team is small enough to know who’s on the other end of the phone, but large enough to manage your commercial fit-out as Principal Contractor (and Designer).

So if you’re looking to maximise the potential of your workspace and you’re in need of a Principal Contractor, Cubex can help!  Simply get in touch to get the ball rolling and we’ll do the rest!

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