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Building competent supply chains: The impact of the Building Safety Act 2022

y0hSQaaAlex Minett, global head of new markets at Veriforce CHAS, explores the role of competence in the new Building Safety Act and offers insight on how organisations can foster competence throughout their supply chains.

The Building Safety Act 2022, which took effect on October 1, 2023, represents a pivotal shift in the UK construction industry's regulatory landscape. This legislation introduces stringent dutyholder requirements to enhance accountability, particularly in higher-risk buildings (HRBs). A key component of this act is its focus on driving competence throughout the entire supply chain, ensuring that all parties involved in building projects meet high standards of skill, knowledge, and responsibility.

A new era of accountability

At the heart of the Building Safety Act is the principle of accountability. The act mandates clear identification of dutyholders at every stage of the building process—from design and construction to occupancy. This clarity aims to eliminate ambiguity about who is responsible for compliance with building regulations, thereby fostering a culture of accountability.

The role of competence

Competence is a central theme in the new dutyholder roles introduced by the act. The regulations stipulate that anyone involved in the design and construction of buildings must possess the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviours to perform their duties effectively. This emphasis on competence ensures that the safety and quality of building work are not compromised by inadequately qualified individuals.

To facilitate this, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has developed Flex 8670, which includes PAS 8671 and PAS 8672 standards for principal designer and principal contractor roles, respectively. These standards provide a structured approach for demonstrating and maintaining competence, setting a benchmark for the industry.

Key dutyholder roles

The Building Safety Act introduces three primary dutyholder roles: client, principal designer, and principal contractor. Each of these roles has specific responsibilities:

Client: Responsible for appointing the principal designer and principal contractor and ensuring proper planning, managing, and monitoring of the project to comply with building regulations.

Principal Designer: Manages the design phase, ensuring all design work complies with relevant regulations and coordinating with other dutyholders to maintain safety and quality standards.

Principal Contractor: Oversees the construction phase, ensuring that building work complies with regulations and that all workers are appropriately supervised and informed.

Ensuring compliance and competence

The act outlines three fundamental duties for all dutyholders­ – this includes general designers and contractors as well as the roles above. 

Duty to ensure compliance: Dutyholders must ensure that all work is designed and constructed in accordance with building regulations. This duty emphasises the importance of meticulous planning and execution to meet regulatory standards.

Duty to be competent: Dutyholders must have the requisite skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviours to fulfil their roles. For organisations, this extends to having the necessary capability to manage and execute projects effectively.

Duty to cooperate, coordinate, and communicate: Effective collaboration and clear communication among dutyholders are essential. This duty ensures that all parties work together seamlessly, sharing information and coordinating efforts to uphold safety and quality standards.

Transforming the supply chain

There is no doubt that the industry is still getting familiar with the Building Safety Act but the hope is that the focus on competence will be transformative for supply chains. By setting high standards for dutyholders, the act aims to ensure that all links in the supply chain—from architects and engineers to contractors and subcontractors—are equipped to deliver safe and compliant buildings. This holistic approach addresses the root causes of building regulations contraventions and mitigates risks associated with poor workmanship and oversight.

Furthermore, the act empowers the Building Safety Regulator to enforce compliance, providing them with the authority to take appropriate action against those who fail to meet the required standards. This enforcement capability is key for maintaining the integrity of the supply chain and ensuring that all dutyholders adhere to their responsibilities.

Conclusion

The Building Safety Act 2022 is a landmark piece of legislation that aims to elevate the standards of competence and accountability within the UK construction industry. By clearly defining dutyholder roles and emphasising the importance of skills and knowledge, the act aims to drive a culture of competence throughout supply chains. For construction professionals, the message is clear: competence is not just an expectation but a legal obligation, pivotal to the future of building safety and quality.

As experts in building competent supply chains, Veriforce CHAS can assist organisations in ensuring the competence of dutyholders. Our expertise in verifying and accrediting supply chain partners can help ensure that all parties involved are capable and compliant, thereby enhancing overall project safety and quality. 

For more information, visit www.chas.co.uk or call 0345 521 9111.