SELECT has warned that new fire safety regulations under consideration by the UK government could undermine existing qualifications that currently ensure contractors are qualified and competent to carry out work in their field.
In its response to the ‘Building A Safer Future’ consultation, which relates to buildings above 18m high in England, trade body SELECT has cautioned against the introduction of a new overarching competence framework to minimise the risk of fire in high-rise buildings. This new framework is one of a series of proposals supported by the Competence Steering Group (CSG) set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017.
In particular, SELECT opposes the CSG’s suggestion to use either PAS or British Standards Institution certification to determine core knowledge, skills and behaviours.
“This action will undermine the existing National Occupational Standards, apprenticeship and qualifications structures already in place,” SELECT said in its submission.
“In our view, the answer is that for sectors such as the electrical industry, where apprenticeships already exist, PAS/BSI standards should accept these as definitive of the core knowledge and skills for that discipline, subject only to any specific additions re: fire and structural safety, etc.”
SELECT is aware that at least two previous UK government schemes – the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and the Green Deal – which used PAS to accredit those who did not hold existing qualifications as a way to measure the competence of those individuals. According to SELECT, examples of poor work carried out under these schemes demonstrated that depending solely on an individual attaining a level of 'competence' was flawed, as those individuals did not have the baseline of experience to underpin any technology-specific training.
Alan Wilson, managing director of SELECT, said existing industry-endorsed apprenticeships and competence-based qualifications should be recognised and reinforced as the minimum entry-level benchmarks. Further support should also be given to industry-led initiatives that support experienced but unqualified or under-qualified workers to achieve minimum competence-based benchmarks.
“No one wants to see a repeat of the tragedy that happened at Grenfell Tower, so of course we at SELECT fully supports the objectives of these new regulations,” he said. “SELECT robustly advocates the highest of safety standards, and we have been at the forefront of a long-running campaign for better regulation in our industry.
“But it is imperative that any new competence regime does not have the unintended consequence of undermining existing and highly-regarded apprenticeships and competence-based qualifications that already do much to ensure that work is carried out to a high standard. Instead, these apprenticeships and industry qualifications should be added to and strengthened.”