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Safety First

by Brian Sims
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk Xtra

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk Xtra

BAFE has welcomed the publication of ‘Raising The Bar’, the interim report issued by the Working Groups established after the Hackitt Review following the Grenfell Tower fire. BAFE has contributed significantly to a number of the Working Groups and also supported the Fire Sector Federation with the deliberations of the Competence Steering Group (CSG).

As outlined in the document, the need for competence and third party certification of contractors working on fire protection is an absolute priority. Commendably, BAFE will be working diligently with all relevant parties to ensure that statutory bodies develop their requirements to bring about “a significant change” in the culture of specification and procurement that “properly reflects the need” for competent providers.

A radical and 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 indeed been set out by the CSG, the cross-industries group backed by Government, the Industry Safety Steering Group and Dame Judith Hackitt.

The Steering Group has brought together more than 150 institutions and associations across the full spectrum of construction, the built environment, fire safety and building owner/manager sectors to work towards the common purpose of raising competences and improving life safety.

Within the pages of its interim report, the CSG is urging all life safety-critical disciplines working on HRRBs (including designers, engineers, building standards officers, site supervisors, fire safety enforcement officers and fire risk officials) to adopt the measures outlined.

By way of example, ‘Raising The Bar’ requests a new oversight body – the Building Safety Competence Committee – to monitor assessment processes, draw up a central register of duty holders eligible to work on HRRBs and drive improvements across the sector. It goes on to suggest that all organisations 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 CSG is calling on central Government to play its part by requiring that any company or individual working on a central Government construction project – including those focused on retrofits for existing HRRBs – must meet the competence frameworks set out within this report. Local authorities and the wider public and private sectors are being urged to follow suit.

In launching the interim report, Graham Watts (CEO of the Construction Industry Council and the CSG’s chairman) stated: “It’s clear that industry organisations have accepted the need for change. The Working Groups are proposing to raise the bar through a more rigorous approach, including training, assessment, reassessment and third party accreditation.”

The CSG feels its proposals will realise “a paradigm change” that improves competence and industry culture. It’s high time the fragmented approach to competence was banished forever.

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