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‘Setting the Bar’ report features “strong focus on accreditation” to demonstrate competency

13 October 2020

THE LONG-anticipated ‘Setting the Bar: A New Competence Regime for Building a Safer Future’ report has now been issued, with this final report of the Competence Steering Group for ‘Building a Safer Future’ developing on the interim ‘Raising the Bar’ document issued in August last year.

In the Foreword to the document, Graham Watts (chair of the Competence Steering Group) states: “It’s quite remarkable that this report has been produced. It’s testament to the unified determination of these [more than 300] organisations to do everything they can to improve building safety and to ensure that residents feel safe in the homes that they occupy.”

For its part, BAFE has stated that the organisation is “proud” to have been included in this process. Chris Auger (BAFE’s director of Schemes) served as Secretary of Working Group 2 – Installers and, alongside BAFE CEO Stephen Adams, as joint-secretary of Working Group 4 – Fire Risk Assessors. BAFE has asserted that: “Working with the dedicated and knowledgeable industry experts has been important to the development of a more robust competency framework.”

Industry cannot stand still

Graham Watts continued: “The building safety legislation will take time to be enacted and implemented, as will the suite of national standards which will also need to be developed through due processes. The ‘industry’ – in its widest context – cannot stand still and wait for these things to happen. It must continue the momentum towards implementing change without delay.”

This statement very much reiterates Dame Judith Hackitt’s ongoing demand that the industry should not wait to be told what to do and must improve its working practices in anticipation of changes.

The document discusses the third party assessment of organisations and notes: “In some sectors, it’s common for organisations (for example, installation companies) to be required to demonstrate that they employ competent staff who are properly assessed, managed and supervised. This can be achieved by third party certification of the service provided by the organisation or of the competence management system operated by the organisation. The final recommendations, therefore, reflect this point. It will be for the Working Groups and the Building Safety Competence Committee to decide how this will operate in practice for each sector.”

BAFE strongly believes that UKAS-accredited third party certification continues to be the best evidence of competency for organisations delivering a specific service in the fire safety sector. Working Group 2 recommends that “the industry should adopt a framework for all the installer sectors working on in-scope buildings that can be applied to other project types.” This will consist of accredited third party certification of companies and qualifications/other requirements for individuals.

In addition, BAFE is wholly committed to providing the fire safety industry with access to achieve quality evidence of organisational competency.

Individual competency

The report has a strong focus on the third party assessment of individuals, making the point: “In further developing proposals for competence assessment, the Competency Steering Group has agreed a principles-based approach in determining the extent that third party assessment of individuals should be required of persons working on higher risk buildings in the future.”

Further, the document states: “There is absolute agreement that everyone working on in-scope buildings must do so within a system of competence assessment and management to ensure they are competent to deliver safe outcomes.”

Independent Awarding Body

BAFE FireQual Ltd is now being established as an independent Awarding Body to provide examinations and qualifications for individuals working within the fire safety and related sectors.

Nic Preston, qualifications manager at FireQual Ltd, commented: “Any individual with certification should be required to take on an appropriate form of refresher training where necessary, including Continuing Professional Development (CPD), in order to demonstrate that their capability remains relevant. Further examinations should also be undertaken to represent and demonstrate understanding of major changes in any associated standards.”

The report addresses this issue with a clear commitment to a CPD framework across all sectors to which the Building Safety Competence Committee would hold sectors accountable.

Stephen Adams observed: “It’s crucial that the individual competency qualifications are linked into third party certificated organisational management to deliver quality evidence of competency that’s regularly reassessed. This ongoing monitoring of organisations should include the important checks to ensure that members of staff remain capable of delivering specific services. Individual qualifications and evidence of CPD will unquestionably support this.”

Implementing an improved culture

The ‘Setting the Bar’ report’s overview concludes: “In time, and as quickly as possible, we expect these new protocols can help bring about an improved culture so that the design and construction of new and refurbished buildings and the management of occupied ones is carried out with pride, rigour and quality by a skilled, knowledgeable and competent workforce.”

Chris Auger concluded: “The work of the Competence Steering Group and its associated Working Groups has been extremely strenuous, and I would like to personally thank everyone involved for their time and valuable input. These recommendations need to be implemented as soon as possible, with plausible scope to extend the competency requirements to the whole of the built environment in the interest of life safety. It’s so important we get this right and that we raise skill levels, improve knowledge and experience and drive the behavioural change that’s needed right across the built environment."

*‘Setting the Bar: A New Competence Regime for Building a Safer Future’ (the final report of the Competence Steering Group for ‘Building a Safer Future’) is available to download via the Construction Industry Council’s website at http://cic.org.uk/setting-the-bar-annexes.php