Building Safety Act | December 13, 2023

Navigating the Building Safety Act 2022: Demystifying Principal Designer and Principal Contractor Roles Part 3 – Principal Contractor Competency Requirements

The construction industry is undergoing a transformative shift with the implementation of the Building Safety Act 2022 (“BSA”). As part of these reforms, from 1 October 2023, a new dutyholder regime applies to all construction projects subject to limited exceptions. A person must hold the role of ‘Principal Designer’ and ‘Principal Contractor’, each carrying their own specific duties and additional competency requirements.

The operative secondary legislation is the Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023 (“BRAE Regulations“) which amend the Building Regulations 2010 (“Building Regulations“).

In Part 2 we examined what is meant by competency in relation to Principal Designers for the purpose of the BRAE Regulations.

In this Part 3 we examine what is meant by competency in relation to Principal Contractors for the purpose of the BRAE Regulations.

1. What is meant by “competence” in relation to Principal Contractors?

Similarly to Principal Designers, competence is defined where the person is a) an individual with the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours necessary, and b) where the person is not an individual, the organisational capability, to carry out the building and design work in accordance with all relevant requirements.

The minimum level of competence is defined broadly in the BRAE Regulations and supported by PAS 8672 (which can be downloaded free here) for Principal Contractors which gives guidance as to the competency framework.

The PAS 8672 itself indicates that it is intended to be used by a wide range of qualified people, including specifically:

  • professional institutions, licensing bodies and awarding organisations to assess the competence of Principal Contractors, as well as regulators and enforcing authorities; and
  • Principal Contractors themselves to determine their own competence limitations and to identify areas of development.

The HSE Design and building work guidance (found here) treats competency as a continuing internal assessment and expects  individuals and organisations to notify their appointer if they are no longer competent, or lack the organisational capability to carry out their necessary duties.

2. How is competence assessed for Principal Contractors?

Principal Contractors must meet the necessary competency requirements for the role and are expected to take responsibility for the site and manage the information flow.

The PAS 8672 indicates that a Principal Contractor is expected to hold a core level of competence regardless of how complex a building project is and the type of building project.

Competence for the role of Principal Contractor under the PAS 8672 is assessed with regard to:

  1. role and responsibilities;
  2. skills, knowledge and experience;
  3. behaviours and ethics, including:
    • ethical principles, standards and conduct;
    • leadership teamwork and communication;
    • individual and organisational competence;
    • personal responsibility and accountability;
    • duty of care to others including building occupants.
  4. specific minimum competences, including:
    • legal and contractual requirements in relation to the discharge of their duties;
    • managing building work;
    • planning and organising production;
    • managing construction process / production;
    • leadership, decision making and change management;
    • liaising with the client, other stakeholders and regulatory bodies;
    • developing people and teams;
    • managing the quality of work;
    • managing information; and
  5. competence management, including recognising and evaluating their own competence limitations.

Further to the minimum standard of competency set out above, PAS 8672 sets out additional competencies that apply to Principal Contractors working on “Higher Risk Buildings” (“HRBs”) as defined in Section 120D of the Building Act 1984 (as amended by the BSA) and the Higher-Risk Buildings (Description and Supplementary Provisions) Regulation 2023. It sets out that Principal Contractors working on HRBs are required to adopt “a whole building approach and integrated overview of the lifecycle of a building, as well as an increased risk awareness relating to fire spread, structural failure and other prescribed regulatory hazards relating to HRBs“.

These more onerous requirements relate to:

  1. managing building work;
  2. leadership, decision making and change management;
  3. liaising with the client, other stakeholders and regulatory bodies;
  4. developing people and teams; and
  5. managing information.

This reflects the fact that there are additional duties placed on all those engaged in HRB work.

For the latest Health and Safety Executive guidance on Principal Contractors and HRBs select here.


As with the Principal Designer role, organisations and individuals intending to provide the Principal Contractor role should assess their current capabilities carefully to evaluate whether they are able fulfil the prescribed duties and competencies required.

Any gaps in competence should be recorded and targeted for formal or informal training. Although there is no requirement for individuals or organisations to undergo formal training, doing so through independent certification or qualification may inspire confidence in clients, co-workers and insurers. In any event, those offering their services as a Principal Contractor must be prepared to demonstrate to a prospective client that, having regard to the specific competencies and requirements, they are able properly to fulfil the role.

In Part 4 we will examine obligations of a client in relation to the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor roles for the purpose of the BRAE Regulations.