A nail in the coffin for cowboys

Chair of Certass Trade Association Jon Vanstone talks about developments with the Building Safety Regulator and the creation of a new Interim Industry Competence Committee.

Those who have followed the Hackitt review of Building Regulations will already know that the final report called for a new framework to drive building safety with recommendations of a joint competency authority to oversee the safety of a building over its whole lifecycle.

With the appointment of Peter Baker as the chief inspector of building in February came a leader who will establish the Building Safety Regulator (BSR). The draft Building Safety bill, which was initially announced in July 2020 and got a mention in the Queen’s Speech in May, aims to bring about a new standard of building safety across England and Wales.

Dubbed ‘the biggest change to building safety in 40 years’, the BSR and Building Safety Bill is due to launch in October 2022, but the work has already started. 

Part of this work is the appointment of an Interim Industry Competence Committee (IICC) which will advise and support the work to establish the BSR and help develop new regulations to increase safety in the design, construction, and occupation of buildings. A large part of this work is the focus on improving and promoting competence in all industry sectors. This will be building on the efforts of competent person schemes, which are currently working on a new set of mandatory technical competency requirements, to help raise the overall performance levels.

Competency is an issue that Certass has been challenging for a long time, and the failure of vocational qualifications in our sector has led to us being a non-qualification-based industry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as we all know that a qualification does not always equal competence on site, but the challenge lies in how competence is proven.

The failure of initiatives such as the Green Homes Grant scheme, which adopted PAS 2030, showed that some sections of government may be out of step with what are reasonable requirements on installer businesses. The PAS 2030 framework is terrible for an SME and it inspired the creation in glazing of some online, easy-to-achieve, with no site assessment qualifications that were purely to tick a box and did nothing for on-site skills.

Our industry really does need to wake up and think about what’s down the road that could have a significant impact on how we work. But we know that is no easy feat at the moment, especially with so many of our sector facing supply shortages alongside huge demand from homeowners who are spending more cash on their homes as their dreams of summer in the Caribbean remain uncertain.

The reality is, that just like the early days of the pandemic, companies in our sector need fast, accurate and up-to-date insight and analysis of what’s coming out of government, as well as support on how to prepare for the change.

That’s what Certass Trade Association is striving for, and we have requested that our collective voice is represented on the Interim Industry Competence Committee so that we can remain the strongest source of information regarding regulations and competency, as well as representing our sector at government level.

That representation comes from the close work we are doing with our members and will be further driven by the official launch of the Installer Protection Committee (IPC) in June, which has already piqued interest with installers who are engaging with us on the issues affecting their businesses. We will also bring the view of fabricators and component manufacturers through our supply chain member webinars and discussions.

Our direct connection to a number of the key people who work within and around construction means that our installers can have an impact where historically there has been none. We have focused Certass on always doing more for its members at a time when others seem to focus on commercialising competent person schemes to sell other products.

In footballing terms this really should be seen as a red card as, like the VAR system, it will only benefit those who own the business.

In terms of building safety, there really will be nowhere to hide once the Building Safety Regulator is up and running with full effect. With any luck, that will help us to cut the cowboys loose and change the perception of our sector.