Competence Steering Group launches interim report

Competence Steering Group launches interim report

THE group (CSG) launched a summary and reports from working groups created after the Hackitt Review, which includes ‘sweeping proposals to raise competence and make buildings safer’.

In a press release discussing the report, which is now out for consultation, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) noted that the ‘radical and wide-ranging’ measures aim to improve competence in design, construction, inspection, maintenance and operation of high risk residential buildings (HRRBs). The cross industry group has been backed by the government as well as the Industry Safety Steering Group and Dame Judith Hackitt.

The CSG – set up by the Industry Response Group (IRG) to ‘tackle competency failings’ identified by Dame Judith – has brought together over 150 institutions and associations across the ‘full spectrum’ of construction, the built environment, fire safety and the building owner and management sectors, with all working ‘towards the common purpose of raising competences to improve life safety’.

This report has urged that ‘all life-safety-critical’ disciplines working on HRRBs – including designers, engineers, building standards officers, site supervisors, fire safety enforcement officers and fire risk officials – ‘adopt the measures’, and has called on the government to ‘play its part’ by requiring that any company or individual working on a central government construction project ‘must meet the competence frameworks set out’.

Such projects include retrofitting existing HRRBs, with local authorities and the wider public and private sectors ‘also being urged to follow suit’. Dame Judith had identified a ‘lack of consistency and rigour’ in processes and standards for assuring skills, knowledge and behaviour of individuals and organisations working on HRRBs, concluding this was a ‘major flaw’ in the current regulatory system.

Competence frameworks developed ‘tackle these shortcomings’ through setting out the ‘appropriate knowledge, qualifications and skill sets’ required for those working on HRRBs, as well as ‘how they should be assessed and by whom’. The report also called for a new oversight body – the Building Safety Competence Committee (BSCC) – to monitor assessment processes, ‘draw up’ a central dutyholder register of those eligible to work on HRRBs, and to ‘continually drive improvements’.

That recommendation ‘dovetails’ with proposals that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had already set out, with the report also recommending that the government ‘mandate’ individuals working on HRRBs to be ‘registered/certified’ by a recognised professional or certified body, while all organisations – including professional bodies – that carry out assessments of competency should ‘themselves be subject to a rigorous system of oversight’.

That could be undertaken by an organisation such as UKAS or the Engineering Council, while the building safety regulator has been asked to ‘hold and maintain’ a register of qualified individuals with the advice of the BSCC, alongside providing ‘sign-posting’ to registers held by professional and trade bodies ‘of those qualified and competent’ to work on HRRBs. A reassessment period of ‘no less than five years’ should also be implemented, the report notes.

Additionally, the report recommends that the ‘common principles’ of continuing professional development (CPD) should be established for each sector, which the BSCC can use to ‘hold sectors to account’; and fire safety CPD materials should explain ‘basic fire science’ to be available to anyone working on HRRBs or managing occupied HRRBs. A consultation on the report is open, and will end on 18 October, after which a final report will be issued.

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council and chairman of the CSG, said: ‘It is clear that industry organisations have accepted the need to change. The working groups are proposing to raise the bar through a more rigorous approach, including training, assessment, reassessment and third-party accreditation. Combined with a new oversight layer, we think adopting our measures will result in a paradigm change to improve competence and industry culture.’

In turn, BAFE commented: ‘BAFE welcomes the publication of Raising the Bar, the summary and reports from the Working Groups established after the Hackitt review following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. We have contributed significantly to a number of the Working Groups and supported the Fire Sector Federation with the work of the Competence Steering Group, which has brought this work together.

‘The ongoing need for competence and third party certification of contractors for fire protection is a priority from this report. We will be working with all relevant bodies to ensure that statutory bodies develop their requirements to bring about a change in the culture of specification and procurement to properly reflect the need for competent providers.’