Who is a Principal Contractor and What Do They Do?
Principal Contractor is a term defined in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It is the legal duty given to the Subcontractor in charge of the works. The name Main Contractor is common. It means the same thing and is often shortened to PC.
Legal Duties on a Principal Contractor
Principal Contractors have legal duties before construction even starts. The Client, or person commissioning the job, will appoint a Principal Contractor in writing.
A Construction Phase Health and Safety Plan must be in place before construction starts. It is checked by the Principal Designer as part of their due diligence. Once suitable and sufficient, the PC will be instructed to start works.
Day to Day Health and Safety Responsibilities
The PC inducts every operative on site. This communicates information such as first aiders, emergency procedures, PPE requirements, the rules. The SMSTS qualified Site Manager is likely to do this, or have one of their team do it for them.
Containing the construction site with secure fencing is one of the first requirements on a PC.
The monitoring of Health and safety in general falls to the PC. This includes spot checks by health and safety professionals but also checks made at Site Management level.
Principal Contractors are a central point for subcontractors to co-ordinate their works. Team briefings should be held when necessary to ensure all trades on site are working co-operatively and considerately. Principal Contractors also monitor health and safety compliance of their subcontractors.
Welfare facilities are the responsibility of the PC. A canteen, toilet, washing facilities and drying room are the minimum standard.
Good Site Management Leads to Good Principal Contracting
Clients want well organised Principal Contractors who are on top of the paperwork.
Risk Assessments and Method Statements must be checked to ensure they are meeting the suitable and sufficient standard.
Site Managers carry out weekly inspections required by law. Inspections on scaffolding, plant and lifting equipment must be undertaken. Fire fighting equipment and first aid equipment must be checked on a monthly basis.
Principal Contractors are First in the Line of Fire
When the Health and Safety Executive visit site, they are visiting the Principal Contractor. Checks will be made to ensure the site in general is compliant with current health and safety legislation and approved codes of practice. If these standards are not met, the Principal Contractor is likely to receive an enforcement notice for ineffective site management. The subcontractor may also receive a notice for the breach.