A wide-ranging set of measures to improve the competence of those who design, construct, inspect, maintain and operate higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs) and make them safer for the public has been set out by a cross-industries group backed by Government, the Industry Safety Steering Group and Dame Judith Hackitt.

The measures were proposed by the Competence Steering Group (CSG), set up by the Industry Response Group (IRG) to tackle competency failings identified in the Hackitt Review, Building a Safer Future, following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The CSG has brought together more than 150 institutions and associations (including FIS) across the full spectrum of construction, built environment, fire safety and building owner/manager sectors, all working towards the common purpose of raising competences to improve life safety.

In its interim report Raising the Bar, the CSG urges designers, engineers, building standards officers, site supervisors, fire safety enforcement officers and fire risk officials working on HRRBs to adopt the measures.

It is also calling on government to play its part by requiring that any company or individual working on a central Government construction project, including those to retrofit existing HRRBs, must meet the competence frameworks set out in the report. Local authorities and the wider public and private sectors are urged to follow suit.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s review identified a lack of consistency and rigour in the processes and standards for assuring the skills, knowledge and behaviours of those working on HRRBs and concluded this was a major flaw in the current regulatory system.

The competence frameworks developed by the CSG and its working groups tackle these shortcomings by setting out the appropriate knowledge, qualifications and skill sets required for individuals working on HRRBs, how they should be assessed and by whom.

In addition, Raising the Bar calls for:
• A new oversight body – the Building Safety Competence Committee – which will monitor assessment processes, draw up a central register of dutyholders eligible to work on HRRBs and continually drive improvements across the sector. This recommendation dovetails with proposals set out by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in its recent consultation.
• Government to mandate individuals working on HRRBs to be registered/certified by a recognised professional/or certified body.
• All organisations, including professional bodies, carrying out the assessments and reassessments of an individual’s competence should themselves be subject to a rigorous system of oversight by a body such as UKAS or the Engineering Council.
• The building safety regulator to hold and maintain a register of those qualified to perform the key roles with the advice of the Building Safety Competence Committee. And, additionally, to provide sign-posting to registers which should be held by the professional and trade bodies of those qualified and competent to work on HRRBs.
• The period of reassessment to be no less than every five years.
• Common principles of continuing professional development (CPD) to be established for each sector, which the Building Safety Competence Committee should use to hold sectors to account.
• Fire safety CPD materials to explain basic fire science to be available to anyone working on HRRBs or managing occupied HRRBs.

‘Accepted need to change’
In launching the interim report, Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Council and chairman of the CSG, Graham Watts, said: “It is clear that industry organisations have accepted the need to change. The working groups propose to raise the bar through a more rigorous approach, including training, assessment, reassessment and third-party accreditation.
Combined with a new oversight layer, we think adopting our measures will result in a paradigm change to improve competence and industry culture.”

FIS has been heavily involved, particularly in working Groups 2 and 12, installation and products. Chief Executive Iain McIlwee said key principles in the document would be used to drive up quality and safety in the sector.