Certification scheme for Building Safety Managers

New industry body the Building Safety Alliance takes first steps towards setting up a central register and certification scheme for Building Safety Managers - a new role being introduced in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The logo of the Building Safety Alliance.

The Alliance is a not-for-profit coalition. 

By Annette McGill

Private and public construction industry bodies this week launched the Building Safety Alliance to implement certification of people wishing to undertake the new role of building safety manager (BSM).

The launch of the Alliance responds to the publication of the Building Safety Bill, which confirmed the new statutory role of the BSM, a concept first developed by Dame Judith Hackitt in her review following the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

The Building Safety Alliance will initially deliver two functions:

  1. The certification of individuals wishing to deliver the role of BSM as an individual and those individuals wanting to act as a nominated individual for organisations delivering the BSM function; and
  2. A publicly accessible register of those certified by the scheme.

The Alliance says eventually it will work with others to evaluate how organisations holding themselves as having the capability to deliver the function of the BSM can be quality assured. It may also look at how to assist contractors and suppliers to high-risk buildings to the requirements of BSI Flex 8670.

No 'race to the bottom'

The Building Safety Alliance is an independent not-for-profit organisation. It says setting up a single not-for-profit register for BSMs will avoid conflicting commercial interests, a plethora of alternative registers, and the temptation of a 'race to the bottom' in cheap certifications. 

The Alliance's governing council includes members and experts from the social housing sector, commercial and residential management companies, facilities managers, fire safety experts. 

Crucially, the council also includes representatives of residents of high risk buildings. The Alliance says it aims to help residents to learn about the BSM role and find out whether a BSM has been certified as competent against the right standard.

What is a Building Safety Manager?

The concept of the Building Safety Manager (BSM) first featured in Dame Judith Hackitt's report, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. She determined the need for a clearly identifiable person responsible for the day-to-day management of a building who would act as the point of contact for residents.

Dame Hackitt stipulated that the BSM would need to have the right skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to take on the role and would need to contribute to holistic, whole building safety for higher risk buildings.

The new Building Safety Bill has confirmed the new statutory role of the BSM. Full details of the BSM function and qualifications are still being developed, but the role will clearly be very relevant for facilities managers and health and safety managers.

Earlier this year the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) hosted a webinar about the BSM role and the competencies likely to be required. This IWFM has published a very useful Q&A (PDF) with an informed panel which sets out the information that is currently available.

The Building Safety Alliance says its website will provide information about the forthcoming legislative changes for:

  • Residents of higher-risk residential buildings;
  • Accountable persons;
  • Organisations wishing to deliver the BSM function;
  • Individuals wishing to deliver the role of BSM as an individual
  • Individuals wishing to act as a nominated individual for organisations delivering the BSM function;

Key provisions of the Building Safety Bill

The long-awaited Bill, launched on July 5, 2021,  introduces a new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety in England and construction products throughout the UK. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick described said the Bill would deliver the "biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years". 

The Bill is designed to prioritise building safety and address issues with a lack of accountability during the life cycle of a building. The Bill will give residents more power to hold builders and developers to account and toughening sanctions against those who threaten their safety.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will set up a Building Safety Regulator to oversee the new regime and will be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high rise residential buildings of 18m and above are effectively managed and resolved, taking cost into account.

The Bill will include powers to strengthen the regulatory framework for construction products, underpinned by a market surveillance and enforcement regime led nationally by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

The national regulator will be able to remove products from the market that present safety risks and prosecute or use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules and compromises public safety.

Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent by Summer 2022.