Competence changes ahead

By Jon Vanstone, Certass.

April saw the first meeting for how we review aspects of the competency requirements for installers across the home improvement market, with a particular focus on competent person schemes. Moving forward I will be talking to the schemes involved so that we can ensure a consistency of approach throughout our sector.

To many this won’t be seen as welcome news as people struggle to survive in the financial environment created by Covid-19. What we, as installers, don’t want to collectively hear about, is changes in requirements that could add to our workload.

However, given that we are heading rapidly towards the three-year anniversary of Grenfell, the demand for improved levels of safety and competence will once again be voiced with increased fury given the slowness of response.

Covid-19 does not change the fact that the construction system needed a massive overhaul, and the Building Safety Regulator will be introduced this year to help drive a new agenda of competent work through the market.

The flow of standards, from high-rise and specialist buildings to any home in the UK, will need to be established and the trick is to ensure that you can identify those who do it right and improve the skills or remove those who are a risk.

Traditionally, in the residential glazing market, we have operated on a belief that if we identify installation work, do some random check on standards, and ensure financial protection is available to rectify issues, then we are pretty much in the right place.

However, the financial protection afforded to consumers has been placed on shaky ground during Covid-19, such that we can no longer trust this back stop and need to work more on the basis of getting it right first time.

The rapid closing of a glazing industry fund has raised concerns that commodity pricing of IBGs and related deposits has left the market with not enough coverage for disaster scenarios. Those businesses who rely on this fund for lower IBG pricing are now left in contradiction of rules of the major competent person schemes, which is a serious concern.

This does not mean that the financial protection requirements will be removed, but they need to be supported by a better compliance piece. By doing so, we can limit the likely loss ratios experienced by insurers and retain our coverage back-stop, which has proven to be so effective over the last 10 years.

The rapid install methods of some large installers, backed by a repair team cleaning up issues, may well become a thing of the past as schemes are pressured to ensure that jobs are ok, rather than rely on customer complaints and interventions.

There will be options on how you comply, ensuring flexibility within the market, and even though there is a lot of validity in qualified workforces, as seen in the electrical market, there is also the fact that gas compliance rates are still not good enough. We know that due to the variances in qualification assessment, our industry seems to show no difference statistically in a qualified worker compared to an experienced worker.

We can therefore deduce that the requirement will not be for mandatory qualifications, but more an approach that can be proven to ensure a higher competence rate than seen today.

Those who do it right have nothing to fear, but your track record of compliance, or a lack of it, will be important as you move forward in this risk-based environment.