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Steering Group on Competences for Building a Safer Future

Posted: 8th June 2018

Many organisations spanning the construction and fire sectors have come together to form a steering group to take forward key recommendations in Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, to improve competences for those working on the design, construction and operation of higher risk residential buildings.

The Steering Group on Competences for Building a Safer Future is a sub-group of the Industry Response Group, which was set up, last July, in the wake of the Grenfell fire to coordinate action and advice to building owners.

The Steering Group will continue the work on capacity and competence, begun in late August 2017, as a workstream of the IRG, and also the Working Group on Competence, set up as part of Dame Judith’s Review. Both groups were chaired by Graham Watts OBE, Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Council, who will also chair the new Steering Group on behalf of the IRG. Peter Caplehorn (Construction Products Association) and Peter Yates (Local Government Association) will be Deputy Chairs. The Steering Group Secretary is Denise Chevin.

Building a Safer Future identified a lack of appropriate skills, knowledge and experience of those engaged at every stage of the life cycle of higher risk residential buildings as a major flaw in the current regulatory system. It also calls for a formal process for assuring these competences.

Specifically addressing the recommendations and proposals in Chapter 5, and Appendix E, of Building a Safer Future, the steering group will develop a plan for an overarching body to provide oversight of competence requirements and support the delivery of competent people. The scope will be for work on higher risk residential buildings as set out in Building a Safer Future, but work will be carried out on the basis that it is likely to have wider application to other building types.

The Hackitt report recommended a year to complete this work and that progress should be reported quarterly. As details become clearer about the role of the Joint Competent Authority (JCA) and the implementation of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations, the Steering Group, and IRG, will consider how this work can best contribute to this evolving process.

The work of identifying and developing specific competency frameworks and accreditation pathways, will be undertaken by 11 working groups, broadly reflecting the work set out in the Hackitt Review; with one additional work stream (Procurement) being added by the Steering Group.

Each working group will be tasked with defining:

  • a process for agreeing and monitoring competence frameworks;
  • a process for agreeing and monitoring accreditation and reaccreditation;
  • the period within which competence should be reassessed;
  • the method for demonstrating or proving competence;
  • whether the competence requirements for those working on HRRBs should also be extended to cover other multi-occupancy residential buildings and to institutional residential buildings;
  • a programme of fire and system safety CPD; and
  • identifying exemplars from other sectors and internationally.

The Chair, Secretariat and membership of each working group are being recruited from across the fire safety sector, built environment professions, the construction industry and from those who own and manage higher-risk residential buildings.

The Steering Group will meet fortnightly throughout the year and, in addition to overseeing and peer-reviewing the outputs from the eleven working groups, the Group will also:

  • determine arrangements for the effective oversight of competence requirements to support the delivery of competent people working on higher risk residential buildings;
  • propose the role and remit of an overarching competence council;
  • identify and fill any further gaps in the competence requirements across the commissioning, design, construction, refurbishment, maintenance and management of higher risk residential buildings;
  • organise a workshop on the principles of competence frameworks; and
  • make quarterly reports to MHCLG/JCA, via the Industry Response Group

The Group met for the first time on the day prior to the publication of Building a Safer Future and has met twice more. Speaking after the third meeting, on 31 May, Graham Watts said: “Dame Judith asked the construction and fire safety sectors to continue the work started in response to her interim report and it has been heartening to see the collective commitment from across both sectors, and amongst those who represent building owners, to come together quickly to ensure that these issues are addressed. Our aim is to ensure a joined-up approach to achieving a comprehensive, coherent and robust framework for the competence of all those creating, maintaining and managing higher risk residential buildings. It is an excellent beginning and we hope to improve upon the year timescale envisaged by Dame Judith by completing this work in March 2019”.