Independent Steering Group to take forward Dame Judith Hackitt’s collective recommendations on competence

The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in West London took place in June 2017

The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in West London took place in June 2017

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 with a view to improving 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 Tower fire to co-ordinate action and advice to building owners.

The Steering Group – whose membership is drawn from ACAI/CICAIR, ARB, Build UK, CIC, CIOB, CPA, the Engineering Council, FSF, IFE, LABC, LGA, NFCC, NHF and the RICS plus the independent chairs of WG8 and WG11 and additional independent members – will continue the work on capacity and competence, begun in late August 2017, as a workstream of the Industry Response Group, and also the Working Group on Competence, set up as part of Dame Judith’s Review.

Both groups were chaired by Graham Watts OBE, CEO of the Construction Industry Council, who will also chair the new Steering Group on behalf of the Industry Response Group. Peter Caplehorn (of the Construction Products Association) and Peter Yates (from the Local Government Association) will be deputy chairs.

Lack of appropriate skills

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’s 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 and the implementation of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations, the Steering Group and the Industry Response Group will consider how this work can best contribute towards 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 – focusing on procurement – being added by the Steering Group.

Monitoring competence frameworks

Each Working Group will be tasked with defining a process for agreeing and monitoring competence frameworks, a process for agreeing and monitoring accreditation and re-accreditation, the period within which competence should be reassessed, the method for demonstrating or proving competence, whether the competence requirements for those working on high risk residential buildings 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 Steering Group will meet fortnightly throughout the year and, in addition to overseeing and peer-reviewing the outputs from the eleven Working Groups, will 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 the MHCLG/JCA via the Industry Response Group.

Collective commitment

Graham Watts OBE concluded: “Dame Judith Hackitt 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 among those who represent building owners, to come together quickly to ensure that these issues are addressed as soon as possible. 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’s an excellent beginning and we hope to improve upon the year timescale envisaged by Dame Judith by completing this work in March 2019.”

*The Industry Response Group is chaired by the MHCLG Building Safety Programme. In addition to the MHCLG, membership consists of Build UK, the Construction Industry Council, the Construction Products Association, the National Fire Chiefs’ Council and representatives from the Local Government Association, the National Housing Federation, the IPA and the BEIS

**BAFE will be represented on the Installer Group (Working Group 2) and will be providing secretariat services to the Fire Risk Assessment Group (Working Group 4)

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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