The Building Safety Act and Competence

The Building Safety Act received Royal Assent in April 2022. It is the largest and most significant piece of legislation for the built environment in over 50 years and will be a driver for raising competence.

The Act was introduced in the aftermath of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, following the Dame Judith Hackett review, which found that the:

  • people carrying out design and building work, and those checking it, did not always appear to be adequately competent;
  • systems used to assure compliance appeared to fall short of satisfactory standards; and
  • penalties for breaches were not enough of a deterrent to discourage non-compliance.

The new legislation enables two new regulators (the Building Safety Regulator and the National Regulator for Construction Products). While there is a new more stringent regime for buildings in scope (particularly taller, high-risk buildings), the competence duties are in reference to those working on all buildings.

Secondary legislation

 The Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023 – was published in August 2023, requiring that:

  • Duty-holders must demonstrate the competence of their workforce (i.e., whole supply chain);
  • Duty-holders must ensure clients are aware of their duties before beginning work; and
  • Organisations must be able to demonstrate that individuals within their workforce are not working outside of their competence.

It is worth noting here that the Regulations identify five kind of duty-holders, which align with those in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) – namely;  client; designer; contractor; principal designer; and, principal contractor. They are, however, different for the purposes of each piece of legislation.

So how does a broad concept such as competence get defined?

Much of the construction sector’s response has been led by the sector itself, forming working groups such as the Competence Steering Group (CSG). The CSG’s initial focus has understandably been on priority areas, including fire stopping, roofing, and cladding. Other areas of the sector, including shopfitting/fitout, are now coming into focus.

In January 2024, the Interiors Super Sector was been launched, as part of the Installer working group. A collaboration of many leading trade organisations, the National Association of Shopfitters has been named as the lead organisation for the shopfitting sector, working alongside the Contract Flooring Association, The Tile Association, and the Finishes and Interiors Sector, among others, under the banner of ‘Finishes’.

The expected outcome is that, by the end of 2024, all five Super Sectors (Envelope, Engineering Services, Interiors, Civils, and Structure) will be launched, alongside the development of 40 more draft competence frameworks.

The NAS is proud to have been selected to complete this important piece of work, which links closely to other ongoing projects, including the Wood Occupations National Occupational Standard review, our competency cards scheme (SICCS), and work with the CITB to develop a Sector Skills Plan.

We will continue to update our members on this topic as the year goes on and welcome input from anyone keen to contribute into this important work.

CDM & Building Safety with Citation

The NAS will join forces with Citation to host an afternoon workshop event in Manchester in June 2024. Martin Miran from Citation will be presenting and will cover sector specific points raised by some NAS members. A Q&A session allows pre-submission of questions or concerns for addressing during the event.

We’ll be in touch soon with more information.