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Bringing in the changes: New safety legislation and a clear direction for construction competency standards.July 2020

by Colin Goodwin

Technical Director, BSRIA

The last week has seen a raft of releases that herald some landmark changes for the construction and building services industry. These will bring about much-needed change to our sector and the wider industry. The proposed Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Bill build on action already taken to ensure that people feel safe in their homes, and a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire never happens again.

The Building Safety Bill

On 29th July, the government published a draft Bill which will deliver the biggest changes to building safety for nearly 40 years. The Building Safety Bill will bring in new and improved regulations as the government provide a clearer and better structure, with residents’ safety at the centre of decision making. This includes the Building Safety Regulator, already being set up within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This will be fully established and equipped with the power to hold building owners, designers and builders to account. It will impose a new, more stringent set of rules that will apply to buildings higher than 18 metres or six storeys from the design phase to occupation.

The draft Bill can be downloaded from here

Fire Safety

Also, the Home Office has launched its fire safety consultation. It is proposed to amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire. The Building Safety Bill will provide a foundation for secondary legislation and responsibilities, for building owners and managers of high-rise and multi-occupied residential buildings in several areas, including; lifts, evacuation plans, resident engagement, fire safety instructions and compliance of building fabric and safety systems to fire safety standards. The Bill will also give the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the powers to amend the list of qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the Fire Safety Order by way of secondary legislation, enabling the government to respond quickly to developments in the design and construction of buildings.

The consultation can be downloaded from here.

Building a Safer Future

Thirdly, the British Standards Institute (BSI) have announced a new national standards programme, set to raise professional competence in the built environment sector. The standards will aim to tackle the competence challenges identified in the Building a Safer Future report, overseen by Dame Judith Hackitt. They are a part of a package of measures recommended by the Steering Group on Competence for Building a Safer Future which were set out in the Raising the Bar report on improving competence. This government-funded programme is designed to delivery competency for the new regulated roles responsible for building safety set out in the Building Safety Bill. The aim is to enable a large-scale industry-led programme to raise competency across the entire construction sector. The framework will be developed in a fast track programme initially as a set of Publicly Available Specifications (PASs) and then after three periods of public consultation and refinement, it will then be published as a full British Standard. It will build upon the framework of occupational competences across all sectors that the steering group has developed over the past two years.

To find out more about Built Environment Professional Competence Standards, please visit the BSI.