Written evidence submitted by Certsure [BSB 328]
1.1. Certsure LLP is the largest UKAS-accredited certification body in the UK for electrical contractors. Over 36,000 registrants display our market leading brands; NICEIC or ELECSA.
1.2. Certsure welcomes the opportunity to offer comments on questions posed by the Select Committee on the draft Building Safety Bill.
1.3. We have answered the question that are most relevant to our role as a certification body and where we feel we can add value.
2.1. How well does the Bill, as drafted, meet the Government’s own policy intentions?
2.1.1. The draft Bill is a welcome step by the Government to improve building safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and towards implementing the recommendations in the independent review of building regulations by Dame Judith Hackitt. Whilst Dame Judith’s review did not include specific measures designed to reduce fires caused by electrical sources of ignition - Certsure believes that the Government has a key opportunity through this Bill to have a lasting impact on reducing fires caused by electricity, from faulty electrical products and/or electrical installations.
2.1.2. We would therefore urge the Committee in its pre-legislative scrutiny to consider that the cause of many fires in homes is electricity. Electrical sources of ignition must be directly addressed and ensure that electrical work in all tenures is only carried out by registered, assessed electrical contractors.
2.1.3. There is also an opportunity to improve the quality of construction work across the sector including banning the use of certain materials,
2.2. Does the draft Bill establish an appropriate scope for the new regulatory system?
2.2.1. Cersture welcomes the Bill’s proposed intention to introduce a new regulatory system but seeks clarity on whether the new Committee being created (Clauses 9-12) will have responsibility for electrical competence.
2.2.2. Clause 10 states that it will be for the newly created Committee on industry competence to ensure the competence requirements are defined, met and reviewed. We would recommend that this is enhanced by ensuring that such reviews are undertaken by bodies who themselves are regularly assessed by an independent accreditation body such as UKAS.
2.2.3. The current definition of Higher Risk Residential Building is that they are 10 storeys or more in height. If the Draft Bill is to include all tower blocks, then the definition of Higher Risk Residential Building’s should be the accepted terminology for a tower block. Failing this, it would need redefining to lower the number of storeys accordingly to encapsulate a broader range of buildings (e.g. those with 5 storeys or more).
2.2.4. There are around 4,000 tower blocks in the UK, estimated to contain over 480,000 individual flats in England alone. Certsure believes that every dwelling in a Higher Risk Residential Building (HRRB), irrespective of tenure, should be subject to the same safety regime, otherwise everyone in the building can be placed at risk from an incident occurring in a single flat. (To note - If the wording of ‘unit’ is used, rather than ‘dwelling’, then a unit would need clearly defining to ensure this encapsulates every utilised space within every Higher Risk Residential Building). In short, without improvement to this draft Bill, over 1 million people living in Higher Risk Residential Buildings may be at risk living in electrically unsafe homes.
Improving and supporting competence
2.2.5. Certsure supports the Bill’s aspiration to improve the competence of the building control profession (Clause 44). However, Certsure believes that the profession should and must be supported by competent persons schemes which ensure that technology/trade specific experts from regularly assessed businesses are able to meet the requirements of the building regulations. It cannot be expected that one individual will have sufficient competence (knowledge, skills and experience) across all of the trades/ professional present in the building services sector. Competent person schemes not only provide for notification of the work undertaken but also provide insurance-backed guarantees and customer protection.
2.2.6. Since the Grenfell tragedy many of the building trades/ professions have worked to enhance the competence of the tradespeople that operate within it. The electrotechnical industry is no exception and has been working hard in the last few years to do just that. The new requirements for assessing enterprises (businesses), introduced in the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS 2020)[i] came into effect on 1 September 2020. EAS 2020 places much greater focus on an enterprise’s requirements for ensuring employee competence when undertaking electrotechnical work, including regular monitoring of staff competence.
3.1.1. Certsure welcomes the creation of an ‘Accountable Person’ and the creation of a new regulator for building safety within the Health and Safety Executive. However, it is not clear at present as to the extent of the ‘Accountable Person’s’ role in electrical safety nor of the new regulator. Furthermore, will the proposed Building Assurance Certificate include electrical safety. These issues will need further clarification.
4.1.1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is an obvious place for the Building Safety Regulator to sit. However, there needs to be a more detailed understanding of the new regulator’s responsibilities for electrical safety and the future enforcement regulation of all building regulations in Higher Risk Residential Buildings .
4.1.2. In terms of funding, care must be taken to ensure that while businesses and individuals bear the responsibility for competence, the monitoring of and costs associated with meeting the regulations should be met by the business that employ them. Linking competence and continued professional development is fundamental to ensuring the people are up to date with their knowledge, skills and experience, and businesses have a role to play in monitoring this effectively for their own benefit (an independently assessed, competent workforce) and for consumers (assurance and safety).
5.1.1. The Bill presents an opportunity to include policy solutions that will help to ensure safety in tower blocks/HRRBs through the following addition to the draft Bill:
5.1.2. Certsure also support Electrical Safety First’s call for the following: