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Building Safety Act “can help construction sector right its wrongs”

14 May 2024

THE BUILDING Safety Act 2022 will bring about changes to culture “on a scale never seen before”. That’s according to the CEO of Local Authority Building Control in England and Wales. Lorna Stimpson has used a new podcast hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) as a platform to state the Act of Parliament addresses several key areas that will help “put right the wrongs we’ve had for so many years” in construction.

In conversation with BESA CEO David Frise during the inaugural episode of the ‘Behind the Built Environment’ Podcast series, Stimpson stated: “It’s important that all construction professions act with integrity. It’s about doing the right thing, even when people are not watching you.”

Stimpson explained that the Building Safety Act is fundamentally about cultural change, which is often difficult to quantify. “It’s about people doing the right thing for the right reasons and putting safety first. There will be hard times coming for the whole industry, but we have to be better.”

According to Stimpson, it’s also up to the industry to decide on its own definitions of competence and “what good looks like”. However, she stressed that competence isn’t something anyone can learn from a book.

“It’s about skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours,” suggested Stimpson. “Have you worked on that type of building before? It’s your responsibility as a duty holder to understand where your skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours lie.”

Assuming responsibility
Stimpson also highlighted that the new legislation from Westminster demands better evidence of what individuals should have been doing all along.

“This isn't meant to be an imposition,” asserted Stimpson. “This is just proving that you’ve done what you should do. In the same way, building control surveyors must now prove their competence and register with the Building Safety Regulator.”

Stimpson added that someone cannot not claim to be competent simply because “they passed an examination 30 years ago… the building control profession is no longer about ‘pass an exam once, practice for life’.”

On that note, Stimpson commented: “You have to keep up-to-date. We know that construction products alone change so often. It’s such a massively innovative area, so how can you stand still? Constantly keeping yourself up-to-date is part of being a built environment professional.”

Gathering evidence

Stimpson has urged BESA members to be diligent about gathering evidence of their competence and compliance. “It's your responsibility to provide that evidence.”

The Government has granted an extension to the deadline for registration of Building Control officers in England and Wales following a letter from Stimpson earlier this year. In England, they still had to register by the original 6 April deadline, but now have until 6 July to complete the process. The Welsh Government has extended the registration period to 30 September.

Stimpson also explained that more people still need to be recruited into the profession. “We know that Building Control is an ageing profession and that there are a lot of people at the latter end of their careers. We’ve been very conscious that we must bring in as many new starters and trainees as we possibly can.”

Stimpson informed Frise that she’s “optimistic” about her sector’s capacity to support the legislation, which will go on to make a significant difference to building safety in the years to come.

*Listen to Episode One of the ‘Behind the Built Environment’ Podcast in full here