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Built environment and fire industries set out blueprint for improving competence and driving culture change

13 October 2020

A BLUEPRINT put together in a determined bid to improve competence for those working on higher risk buildings and drive culture change has been set out by a cross-industry group representing more than 150 organisations in the fire and built environment industries.

‘Setting the Bar’ is the second and final report of the Competence Steering Group and is an update of its Interim Report, entitled ‘Raising the Bar’, published back in August last year. The work was initiated by the recommendations outline within Dame Judith Hackitt’s own review document entitled ‘Building a Safer Future’.

The proposed overarching system of competence set out in the report is made up of four key elements: 

*a new Competence Committee that will sit within the Building Safety Regulator’s ambit at the Health and Safety Executive

*a national suite of competence standards (including new sector-specific frameworks developed by 12 dedicated Working Groups)

*arrangements for independent assessment and reassessment against the competence standards

*a mechanism to ensure that those assessing and certifying people against the standards have appropriate levels of oversight

Wide-ranging consultation 

Since the publication of ‘Raising the Bar’, the Competence Steering Group and its Working Groups have consulted widely and taken on board feedback as they’ve continued to develop sector frameworks and overarching competence frameworks. These frameworks will provide the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours needed to carry out specific roles and deliver a more rigorous approach towards the essential training and assessment that’s required. 

Additionally, the competence requirements for the new role of Building Safety Manager have also been completed. Indeed, this has been a major element of the Competence Steering Group’s work. ‘Setting the Bar’ includes a summary of the key points under the Working Group 8 section. In fact, there’s a full and separate report published by Working Group 8 alongside this report, entitled ‘Safer People, Safer Homes: Building Safety Management’, duly reflecting the fact that Working Group 8 is establishing a completely new role and the competence needed. 

The Competence Steering Group is recommending that all individuals whose work on higher risk buildings is likely to materially affect safety outcomes, or who work unsupervised on these buildings, should meet the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours set out in the competence frameworks developed by the industry.

Sector step change 

Competence Steering Group chair Graham Watts, CEO of the Construction Industry Council, said: “We would see higher risk buildings as an essential starting point for the new competence frameworks for the whole of the built environment, which would ultimately result in a step change across the sector and a change of industry culture.”

The Competence Steering Group has worked closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Some of the report’s key recommendations have already been adopted, including the proposal for a Committee on Industry Competence as set out in the draft Building Safety Bill. 

Now, the Competence Steering Group is urging Government to make mandatory the assessments against the frameworks for those working on higher risk buildings, and is also calling on Government to take the lead by requiring that the competence framework set out within this report [subject to its review against the Overarching Competence Framework Standard currently being developed through the British Standards Institution] must be met by any company or individual working on any higher risk building. 

Watts added: “There’s no time to lose in casting aside the sub-standard practices that have shamed the industry. In this document, we’ve set a new bar and we would urge all those working in life-critical disciplines to attain these higher levels of competence. Only then can we rebuild the trust of those who occupy and live in the buildings we design, construct and manage.”

*Download the full report and the Executive Summary by visiting the Construction Industry Council’s website