ECA calls for stronger competency requirements in Building Safety Act
18 May 2022
ELECTROTECHNICAL AND engineering services trade body the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) has called for more stringent competency requirements in the Building Safety Act 2022. The Building Safety Bill was introduced by the Government nearly a year ago following on from the Grenfell Tower disaster (in which 72 people died) and, of course, Dame Judith Hackitt’s subsequent Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.
Commenting on the Building Safety Act, the ECA technical director Mike Smith said: “The new Act represents the biggest step so far towards safer homes since the tragic Grenfell Tower fire of 2017. However, the last-minute removal of the legal requirement for the role of ‘Building Safety Manager’ was disappointing. The responsibility has been passed on to an ‘Accountable Person’, but this move risks confusion that could potentially impact the safety of a building in future.”
Smith continued: “The competence of those individuals now working within and on buildings has a higher profile than ever before and its importance can never be overstated. From our perspective, the Building Safety Act should place more responsibility on the shoulders of contractors to ensure that the people transacting the work to build and maintain high-rise residential buildings are suitably qualified and competent.”
Further, Smith noted: “We are now counting on secondary legislation for more stringent competency requirements that will help to make UK households even more safe from the risk of fire.”
The Building Safety Act marks the biggest overhaul in building safety regulations in nearly 40 years. It updates and amends other laws, such as the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, the Defective Premises Act of 1972 and the Building Act of 1984.
Working Group 2 Competence Report published
Working Group 2, set up as part of the post-Grenfell Competence Steering Group, has now published a report marking an important milestone in progress towards improved standards of installer competence in the built environment.
Volunteers from Working Group 2 have worked with six pilot installer sectors – Domestic Plumbing and Heating, Dry Lining, Fire Detection and Alarms, Fire Stopping Specialist, Rainscreen Cladding, and Roofing – to benchmark existing competence arrangements.
This ‘pilot’ Phase One stage sets a baseline to identify shortfalls and considers the changes needed to create competence frameworks that comply with the recommendations of ‘Setting the Bar’.
In 2020, ‘Setting the Bar’ outlined how industry must improve the competence of those procuring, designing, constructing, inspecting, assessing, managing, installing and maintaining higher-risk residential buildings.
‘Setting the Bar’
The Working Group 2 report recognises that good practice exists in each of the six sectors that allows them to demonstrate elements of competence, and yet there are elements of each sectors’ arrangements that the Working Group has ‘red’-rated, showing that significant work is required to meet the requirements of ‘Setting the Bar’
Each sector will now move to develop sector-specific competence frameworks that play to existing strengths and close off any red flag issues raised in the report. This process – which will also develop a timeline and implementation plan for each sector – is expected to take between six and nine months to complete.
The Working Group 2 report also calls on other installer sectors to begin their own competence journey now, offering guidance to help them do so. Working Group 2 has developed this guidance during the pilots.
Mark Reynolds, sponsor for the CLC’s People and Skills Network, said: “The publication of Working Group 2’s latest report marks an important milestone in progress towards improved standards of installer competence in the built environment. The CLC will continue to do all it can to assist with the pilots. I would urge other installer sectors to embark on their own competence journeys now, duly drawing on the resources which Working Group 2 has provided.”