National Standards Programme launched to ‘raise’ competence


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THE BRITISH Standards Institution (BSI) said that the new national standards programme would ‘raise professional competence in the built environment sector’.

BSI stated that the professional competence recommendations set out by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety are ‘set to be fulfilled’ by BSI in the new programme, which will ‘tackle the competence challenges identified’ by Dame Judith, and form part of the ‘package of measures recommended’ by the competence steering group (CGS) set out in the Raising the Bar report from the Construction Industry Council (CIC) last year.

The programme will be funded by the government and ‘designed to support the delivery of regulatory policy’, as well as the ‘new regulated roles responsible for building safety’ that have been ‘set out’ in the building safety bill. It will also enable the ‘large scale, industry led’ programme to raise competency across the sector, and includes an ‘overarching’ competency framework standard for ‘everyone working on a building’.

This standard is ‘intended to be used by key professions and trades including designers, contractors, fire risk assessors, building manager and others in specialist technical or corporate roles’. The framework meanwhile will ‘provide a set of core principles of competence’, including ‘leading and managing’ as well as ‘communicating’ and ‘delivering’ safety, risk management, regulations and processes, building systems, ethics and ‘fire/life safety’.

From this autumn the framework will be ‘made available for use’, and after three periods of public consultation and ‘refinement’, it will be published as a British standard, and include a set of competence requirements for the three newly regulated roles – which include the principal designer, principal contractor and building safety manager.

A number of fast track publicly available standards (PASs) will be produced to ‘meet the urgent need for competent individuals to fulfil these roles’ and ‘ensure the safety of residents’, with the roles having ‘overarching responsibility for the main activities affecting building and life safety at each stage of a building’s lifecycle’ – namely the design, construction and operation stages.

Each role requires ‘enhanced competences in addition to any discipline related competences’, relating to the ‘overarching’ position of ensuring that design intent of a building ‘is maintained’ alongside workers being ‘suitably competent’ to be employed and used in design, construction, refurbishment, maintenance and operation. The programme began in April 2020, and has been overseen by a ‘newly established’ built environment competence standards strategy group (BECS).

This group includes ‘strategic, senior level’ technical and policy experts from a ‘broad range of organisations involved in the design, construction and management of higher risk buildings’, and the programme itself will run until 2022. Scott Steedman, director of standards at BSI, stated: ‘Dame Judith Hackitt’s report asked the built environment industry to change its culture to safeguard people and their properties.

‘In response to the call to put clear responsibility at the heart of the system, BSI as the UK’s national standards body, has launched the professional competence standards programme. The new industry-led standards will support the building safety bill by “raising the bar” across workforce competence.’

Dame Judith commented: ‘The work of the [CSG] has been a “tour de force” and all of those who have been involved thus far are to be congratulated. As the baton is handed over to BSI to lead us through the standards development process, the whole industry needs to keep up the pace – not just to agree on the new standards, but to make them a reality in practice. That will require collaboration and cooperation, and demolition of silos – part of the culture change that is so urgently needed.’

Graham Watts, chair of the CSG and chief executive officer of the CIC, said: ‘This new stakeholder-led national standards programme, under the guidance of BSI, is the welcome and vital next step in raising and setting the bar for enhanced competence standards for all those engaged in ensuring that buildings are safe for their residents and occupants, through the design and construction or refurbishment phases and into the management of buildings in use.

‘It builds upon the framework of occupational competences across all sectors that the [CSG]has developed over the past two years.’

Building Safety Minister Lord Greenhalgh commented: ‘This government is determined to put residents’ safety first by bringing about the biggest improvements in building safety regulations in 40 years. Regulatory reforms alone won’t achieve this – we need to raise skills across the industry, backed by a strong national competence framework, and we are working together with the BSI and industry to make this happen. We welcome the expertise they bring to the vital work of raising standards of competence to make sure all residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.’

Chris Auger, head of schemes at BAFE, added: ‘BAFE is actively working on a number of Working Groups including the [BECS] strategy group and the [CSG] to help raise and set the bar of fire safety in the built environment.

‘It is vital that there is both a top down and bottom up approach to competence in order to have competent individuals working on and understanding fire safety in construction and, effective and competent management of life and fire safety which will have a “trickle down” effect leading to the much needed culture change that Dame Judith Hackitt has described.’

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