The Building Safety Bill, currently in the final stages of passing through parliament, will affect the design, construction and use of higher risk buildings with significant lessons to be learned across the industry.

The sea is shifting with the government seeking to tweak the Building Safety Bill to ensure that its requirements are both achievable and sustainable. In April 2022, the government announced a series of amendments to the Bill including scrapping the role of the Building Safety Manager. This, they suggest, will give the Accountable Person more freedom to implement safety procedures that suit the characteristics of their building and will remove the associated cost of appointing a Building Safety Manager. With the industry negatively reacting and championing the original role, the upcoming change looks to prove unhelpful when we consider the bill and its requirements. However, it continues to remain clear that competence across construction and fire safety does need to improve.

Dame Judith Hackitt, via her reports evaluating Building Regulations and Fire Safety, identifies competence as a key pillar in providing safer buildings. The report identifies that all actors within a project should have relevant skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to carry out their work. The implications of the bill on the construction and use of higher risk buildings is profound and should be considered a watershed moment following the continued promotion of deregulation by successive governments.

Training in all areas of the construction sector shall be required to upskill those involved from designers to operatives. Under the draft bill, which amends the Architects Act of 1997, Architects could have their registration with the architect’s registration board removed. This can be seen for example where architects are not deemed to meet the competence level required. For operatives, investing in improved competence levels could ensure that more skilled workers are able to correct errors and improve efficiency, alongside ensuring compliance with the regulations as noted by Dame Hackitt. This demonstrates the ambition the construction sector should be setting itself. Competence shall lead to quality, which the wider industry has been regarded as failing on for a significant length of time.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report recommends “a very clear model of risk ownership” and notes “competence across the system is patchy”. In consideration of this, and the potential exclusion of the Building Safety Manager role, Hollis promotes organisations to look inward. The requirements of the Bill continue to be subject to change but the aspirations of Dame Judith’s report and the outcomes of the Phase 1 enquiry chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick – Chair of Grenfell Enquiry – are firmly cemented. We must do more and that shall be done by those with the know how to do so.

Bolstering the Hollis H&S team competence and industry know how, include recently CMIOSH qualified, Lawrence Bonavia (London) and Mason McIntyre (Winchester). Hollis have been monitoring developments around the Building Safety Bill and shall continue to do so. In the meantime, we are making every effort to ensure our team are in the best possible position to react to its requirements on our clients’ behalf.