Accessibility Tools

The vital role of a Principal Designer in the design decision process


Our next thought leader is Associate Director Martyna Szypowicz, in this piece Martyna guides us through the vital role of a Principal Designer in supporting projects in the design decision process, in relation to health and safety law compliance. She explains why the best way to prevent accidents and harm to people, is by designing safely from the outset, how prioritising safety can save you both time and money, and why engaging Vextrix means working with a team that actively participates in the design development to make a real impact on the design.

What is a Principal Designer?

A Principal Designer is a role prescribed by the CDM Regulations 2015. A Principal Designer must be appointed by the client as early in the project as possible. When delivered in line with the regulations, a Principal Designer plays a vital role in supporting the project in the design decision process in relation to Health and Safety law compliance. Design development that incorporates health and safety in every step not only saves lives but could also positively impact a client’s budget.

How does a Principal Designer deliver safety?

A Principal Designer oversees health and safety on a project from the start, by undertaking site risk assessments and identifying gaps in the pre-construction information that could impact on the safety of the project. A Principal Designer works with the designers on the design development to identify hazards that could impact the safety of the contractors, future users and maintenance teams.

The overall aim of the Principal Designer role is to eliminate hazards, or, if this is not feasible, reduce risks as far as reasonably practicable. The best way to prevent accidents and harm to people, is designing safely from the outset. Safe design not only protect lives, but it also saves our client’s money in the long run.


How can a Principal Designer add value to my project?

Throughout a project, a principal designer focuses entirely on safety, access, and Health and Safety law compliance. Early design decisions impact on the client budget, therefore deciding on the design safety elements as early in a project as possible is very important. Installation of equipment is one of the most important design decisions in any design. Although we should always choose to place the plant and equipment at ground floor level, it is not always possible to do so, due to space limitations or building use.

If the plant cannot be installed on the ground level, designating roof space for plant areas has become very popular and often the preferred option, particularly as the roof is the perfect location for the installation of PV panels.

If the roof is the most practically reasonable option, installation of stairs to access the roof with a 1100mm high edge protection, non-slip walkways and a safe zone around the equipment would be the recommendation provided by our Principal Designers and such would be at the forefront of the design team meetings we attend. This would provide the level of safety required, so that  the area can be accessed safely in the future for inspection, maintenance and repairs. This will mean that the risk of major injury or fatality from falling from heights, either from an unprotected roof or from inadequate ladder access will be prevented.



41% of deaths on a construction site are caused by falls from height, making it the biggest cause of death. The best way to prevent accidents and harm to people, is designing safely from the outset. Safe design not only protect lives, but it also saves our client’s money in the long run.

If you choose to install equipment in a location that is unsafe or inaccessible this means increased costs on maintenance and repairs.


  • Increased cost of equipment hire to reach the location at height.
  • Increased cost of temporary works such as scaffolding each time when maintenance or repair is needed – the lead time and effort related to this could result in greater damage or longer periods of time without the vital service. It would also result in rare maintenance which would impact on the longevity of the equipment adding to the global waste problem.
  • The cost of temporary building closures and the impact on operations due to the lack of immediate means of access.
  • longer lead times to repair equipment, due to reliance on outside resources
  • The time and costs involved with gaining local authority permissions e.g. for road closure to set up a crane lift.

The investment in safe access to equipment means:

  • Equipment replacement and repairs become safe and straightforward.
  • It saves money on equipment hire and time on local authority permissions needed.
  • It avoids temporary building closures for maintenance or repair.
  • It avoids the cost of temporary works such as scaffolding.
  • Easy access to the roof means safe access for workers.
  • Regularly accessed and maintained equipment means less frequent breakages and equipment needing replacement.
  • It has a positive impact on the environment by creating less waste (fewer parts are damaged and less equipment is replacement due to frequent maintenance.)
  • There will be no requirement for a diesel powered crane lift that adds to environmental pollution.

In summary, having safe and straight forward access to the roof will improve the safety of the workers and it will have a positive impact on your overall budget. This is just one example of how CDM regulations can positively impact your project and an example of how Vextrix delivers the duties under CDM regulations.

Why Vextrix?

The way we work means our clients know us by name and we are present at every stage of our projects. By knowing our projects so well we can follow through with the CDM compliance and add value to the design. As standard we deliver our duties under CDM regulations, but more than this, we actively participate in the design development, because we want to make a real impact on the design.

To find out more about our services and how Martyna and her team at Vextrix can support you on your next project contact