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Government has removed the duty to provide the Building Safety Manager role as part of a series of amendments to the Building Safety Bill, but why?

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Building Safety Bill, UK & Ireland

What is a building safety manager and why were they needed in the first place?

Buiding Safety Managers were defined as persons appointed to assist the Accountable Person (the entity or person with ultimate responsibility for the building) in the management of building safety on a day-to-day basis and applied to residential high-rise buildings above 18m.

The accountable person (duty holder) will have a duty to:

  • prevent a building safety risk happening, with building safety risk defined as ‘spread of fire and/or structural failure’;
  • reduce the seriousness of an incident if one happens.

Dame Judith Hackitt recommended the appointment of Building Safety Managers in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report published May 2018, which was undertaken following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in June 2017. The aim being for Building Safety Managers, with the relevant skills, knowledge and expertise, to assist the duty holder in discharging their duties and directly raising standards of fire safety within high-rise residential buildings.

How the bulding Safety Manager might have looked in reality has been subject to some debate. Could an individual posses all the necessary skills and technical competence to peform such a role? If not how many individuals would be needed for each building and who would decide? How would competence be demonstrated and assessed?

Following one of a series of amendments to legislation, this is somewhat a mute point as the government has removed the proposed duty to require the appointment of an individual performing the role of Building Safety Manager. Instead a regime is proposed which will allow the Accountable Person to set the ‘most appropriate measures’ for their buildings, a key benefit being identified as relieving leaseholders of unecessary costs.

The question is, now this legal requirement has been scrapped, how will it be ensured that duty holders have access to the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise? Can the original policy intention of ensuring fire safety in high-rise residential buildings be guaranteed under the newly proposed system? After all, when it comes to proactively identifying and implementing measures to reduce fire safety risk (in what can rightly be considered an increasingly complex environment) competency is paramount.

At the time of writing this article, additional guidance from the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) on how competence requirements will be set in the absence of a statutory role, are still to be confirmed.

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