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Improving Safety Standards Through Competency Management

by FIS

The long awaited Building Safety Act, which came into force in June 2022, is the foundation of a new building safety regime for the construction sector and represents the most significant change to industry regulation in a generation. At its heart is the drive to ensure the safety of people in and around buildings, improve the standard of buildings, and support individuals and organisations with responsibilities to fulfil their duties.  A key requirement is for organisations to be able to demonstrate competency in all areas of the business and its people. 

Iain McIlwee, Chief Executive of the Finishes and Interiors Sector (FIS) provides insight into the Building Safety Act and explains why it will provide an opportunity for organisations across the finishes and interiors sector to adopt competency management plans as part of the culture of their businesses.

The Building Safety Act defines competence as having the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours.  It requires all individuals carrying out design, construction and refurbishment work to be competent for their roles. Organisations must also demonstrate that they have the organisational capabilities, including appropriate management systems, processes, policies and resources to fulfil their roles. The setting up of a new system of competence will offer reassurance to occupiers and owners that buildings are safe.

Improving, monitoring and demonstrating competence

With the construction sector under ever-closer scrutiny in relation to competency, the need for organisations to improve, monitor and demonstrate competence is vital. When you consider the finishes and interiors sector has approximately 280,000 people in 36 construction trade occupations across an estimated 10,000 organisations, for just the installation aspects, and a further 10% across manufacturers, suppliers, finance, health and safety, training and administration, how do you determine the competency of all these organisations and individuals who have such a wide range of roles and responsibilities?

A Competency Management Plan (CMP) is a critical document for any organisation working in the finishes and interiors sector or indeed any sector of the construction industry, and must be embedded within the culture of the business and embraced within any quality management process.  It should reflect the balance between organisational and individual competence with levels of supervision being key.  In other words, a less competent person can do more under higher levels of supervision. At the same time, a supervisor may need additional support to develop the functional competencies associated with coaching and mentoring.  It is vital that all parts of an organisation’s workforce including labour-only subcontractors (LOSCs) are considered in the CMP.

It is also important for a CMP to track the competence requirements of an organisation and identify any remaining or emerging gaps.  As part of this, it should be able to track the experience of people and add to their learning to provide evidence-based assertions of competence.

CMPs are not a new concept. They have been used since the 1920s and there is clear evidence that organisations that manage competence linked to their mission and vision are progressive and successful.

Help is at hand

A new Sector Guide – Competency Management Plans has been launched by FIS to assist organisations in the improvement of quality and safety and ensure they meet new regulatory requirements.

The guide provides examples and signposts to available information and assist organisations in improving quality and safety whilst ensuring that they meet the requirements of legislation and avoid any enforcement penalties.1  The guide aims to address the regulatory regime as part of the long-awaited Building Safety Act which sets out clear duties and responsibilities for those who commission, design, construct and refurbish higher-risk buildings, as well as those responsible for ensuring buildings are safely managed when occupied.

It is structured to help form a strategy for assessing competence and provides guidance to suggested CMP content including organisational and occupational competence, functional requirements, creating job descriptions, competency and training plans, appraisal process and succession plans.

In addition to the availability of the new Sector Guide – Competency Management Plans, FIS has been working with My Professional Pass (MPP) to help support a universal approach to competency passports in the sector. The FIS Competency Passport system will store, retrieve, view and monitor training and qualification achievements of individuals and records of experience. Individuals registered with MPP, self-employed or directly employed, can give organisations access to their records.

In a post-Grenfell world, safety and competency has become a decisive factor for the industry moving forward.  With the introduction of the Building Safety Act, the need to have the ability to prove competence is a legal requirement for any individual or organisation carrying out design or building work. This will be an important step towards a better industry which is why FIS strongly recommends organisations across the finishes and interiors sector review what they have and make the necessary changes to ensure they stay on the right side of the law.

The Sector Guide – Competency Management Plans is available from the FIS website

For further information or for any questions and comments, please contact FIS at info@thefis.org or call 0121 707 0077

1 At the time of writing penalties have not been published for failure to comply with the Building Safety Act, but consultations on this and enforcement associated to wider changes to the building regulations are taking place.

About the author

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FIS

FIS is the not for profit representative body for the £10 billion finishes and interiors sector in the UK. The organisation exists to support our members, improve safety, minimise risk, enhance productivity and drive innovation in the sector.

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