What does the Principal Designer role mean in demolition?

The role of a Principal Designer (PD) may be familiar territory for RVA Group, as we routinely adopt PD responsibilities on behalf of our UK clients. But for organisations new to the world of demolition, PD is yet another acronym that merits further exploration.

Here, RVA’s operations director and experienced decommissioning engineer Matthew Waller, gives a top-line overview of this extremely important project role…

In the most basic of terms, the appointment of a Principal Designer is a legal and fundamental requirement for UK decommissioning and demolition projects. This duty holder role is set out under the Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations, which exist to help manage health and safety on these potentially high-hazard assignments.

However, the successful fulfilment of PD responsibilities, in truth extends far beyond this regulatory framework. In fact, in our opinion, the role of Principal Designer is integral to good project management and an essential element of the structure of any decommissioning team.

The role of a PD is to analyse the various potential risks that exist on a given site. Such risks may relate to the demolition discipline itself, but will also extend to include the process-specific hazards relevant to the industrial background and current operational status of the plant concerned. The PD may therefore need to enhance their own process knowledge with that of personnel from the sector, whether that be from energy, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and so on.

The Principal Designer must then understand how these multiple hazards interact with each other, to assist and provide direction that will help mitigate the danger they pose.

In short, this detailed project knowledge and understanding adds demonstrable value to a demolition project. It forms the backbone of advice to the client in terms of:

  • What hazards are known to exist and can therefore be accounted for
  • And where they are located
  • When and in what order the risks should be approached
  • Who should tackle them, once the persons carrying out the works have been fully informed of the risks and the works that have gone before
  • How the process should be executed, in terms of communications between all involved parties, the most appropriate techniques for hazard mitigation, taking into account best-practice procedures, methodologies and ever-evolving legislation
  • And why, i.e. the ultimate rationale once everything has been assessed.

The above naturally relies on robust communication with all parties involved throughout, including the Client, Principal Contractor, CDM Contractors, Designers, etc as well as any other personnel brought in to work on the assignment. But it is this same clear and informed dialogue which will best protect health and safety during the entire project lifecycle. The PD should strive to create a successful safety-first mindset, with the management of EHS considered a joint responsibility shared by all involved.