Raising the Bar: Improving competence, Building a safer future

Raising the Bar is an interim report and responds to Dame Judith Hackitt’s competence recommendations in Building a Safer Future, published in May 2018 in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It presents what it intends as a blueprint for improving the competence of those involved in designing, constructing, inspecting, assessing, managing and maintaining Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs), and other buildings in scope, to ensure they are safe for all who occupy them.


In response to Dame Judith’s report and to address key failings, the Competence Steering Group (CSG), was set up and brought together representative organisations from the built environment and fire disciplines. It was given a year to make proposals to meet the competence recommendations set out by Dame Judith.

The CSG explains that its goal was to ensure that all individuals involved in HRRBs, including those who do not identify with being a ‘professional’, cannot accidentally (or deliberately) slip through the net and that their obligation to carry out their duties competently is spelt out to them.

The CSG considered how to develop skills and competences pertaining to all aspects of building life-safety related to completed buildings, and potentially across all buildings, to raise the bar and drive far-reaching culture change.

Proposed changes

CSG developed ‘Principles of Competence’ to ensure a basic understanding and common foundation for all disciplines. It has drawn up an industry-led proposal aimed at creating a robust, coherent and comprehensive system of overseeing competence. This is intended to give assurance to residents, dutyholders and regulators that those involved in the design, construction, inspection, maintenance and management of HRRBs are competent and understand the risks and responsibilities of their work and act accordingly.

A central proposal is that the Government, through its nominated Oversight Body, maintains a national register of individuals qualified to undertake the key roles of Principal Designer, Principal Contractor and Building Safety Manager. This would be with advice from a strategic industry-led Building Safety Competence Committee, with the proposed system taking a dual approach. This comprises a bottom up, ‘raising the bar’ process for the general workforce; and a top down ‘sharp focus’ on the three key roles.

It is intended the Committee will drive competence by developing new national competence standards, robust assessment frameworks and guidance. It will work with and challenge relevant sectors to promote the equivalence of accreditation systems and provide advice to the regulator on selecting competent people. It is proposed that common principles are established to guide each sector on CPD and assessment requirements and that the Committee will use these to hold sectors to account.

The competence frameworks developed by twelve working groups (WGs) set out the skills and knowledge needed, how these should be assessed, and importantly, for the assessing organisations themselves to be accredited or licenced by a third-party independent body, such as UKAS or the Engineering Council. The report urges all disciplines working on HRRBs (and other buildings in scope) to adopt and take forward these frameworks. The key areas examined so far by the WGs relate to:

  • Overarching Competence Body (WG0)
  • Engineers (WG1)
  • Installers (WG2)
  • Fire Engineers (WG3)
  • Fire Risk Assessors (WG4)
  • Fire Safety Enforcement Officers (WG5)
  • Building Standards Professionals (WG6)
  • Building Designers (WG7)
  • Building Safety Managers (WG8)
  • Site Supervisors (WG9)
  • Project Managers (WG10)
  • Procurement Professionals (WG11)
  • Products (WG12)

Each WG has made recommendations for change. For example, WG4 has indicated how improvement could be achieved, with a statutory requirement, accredited third party certification, and a national register. WG8 made proposals around title and role, organisational management, a statutory licensing structure and a new role of Residential Accommodation Operator and WG9 has advocated the introduction of a new role of Independent Construction Assessor.

Consultation questions

Raising the Bar is an interim report issued for consultation to inform a final report.

We invite IOSH members to send us comments on IRG’s consultation on its interim report to consultation@iosh.com, to help inform an IOSH submission, by 20 September 2019.

IOSH members wishing to also respond individually to the IRG can do so by email to enquiries@cic.org.uk by 18 October 2019.