Freelance journalist

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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
September 15, 2021

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Competence framework PAS 8673 for new role of building safety managers on track for publication

IFSEC Global highlights some of the main points of the new specification for the competence of building safety managers, part of a suite of documents being developed in response to concerns about competence in the design, construction and management of buildings. 

PAS 8673 Built environment – Framework for competence of individual building safety managers and nominated individual building safety managers – Specification was released for public consultation in August. It is a fast-track Publicly Available Specification facilitated by BSI and sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The origins of PAS 8673 stems from recommendations of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety carried out by Dame Judith Hackitt. Her report identified serious shortfalls in the competence of those involved in most stages of the design, construction, management and operation of Grenfell Tower, something which has also become evident at the subsequent public inquiry.

BuildingSafety-20The role of building safety manager was confirmed in the Building Safety Bill, currently going through parliament. It says that the accountable person for a higher-risk building must appoint a building safety manager before it is occupied. The accountable person must be satisfied that where the building safety manager is a person (it can also be an organisation), they have “the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to carry out the functions of a building safety manager”.

In turn, where the building safety manager is an organisation, it must appoint an individual acting under its control to be the ‘nominated individual’ for the building, and must be satisfied the individual has the same qualities as an individual building safety manager.

PAS 8673 objectives

The PAS is being developed in consultation with a review panel comprising organisations and individuals representing stakeholder groups that may be affected by the implementation of the PAS. Under BSI Flex 8670, there are two other documents being prepared – frameworks for the competencies of principal designers (PAS 8671) and for principal contractors (PAS 8672).

PAS 8673 specifies the requirement for building safety competence relevant to the role, function and task of building safety managers, based on the core requirements and core competencies set out in BSI Flex 8670. The PAS covers their comprehension of:

  • building structures and building systems
  • how systems inherent in buildings operate
  • operational practices necessary to maintain buildings safe for occupiers and visitors
  • technical risk management
  • how to identify, monitor and control risks, projects and the consequences of human behaviour.

It’s scope also includes leadership, communication and planning skills, and personal commitment to ethics, behaviour and professional standards.

The PAS describes different grades of competence for the classification of building safety managers, dependent on experience, levels of knowledge, skills, and responsibility, and indicates the pathways between the categories. It describes how these grades relate to the competence necessary to manage buildings of differing types and complexities, as set out in the safety case report(s) relating to the specific building(s) under the control of the individual building safety manager.

Specific provisions of PAS 8673

Under clause 4.1.2, the building safety manager should have the competence to:

  • take responsibility for building safety and engagement with occupants on matters affecting their wellbeing, health, safety and security, and the environment in and around the building
  • exercise a duty of care in respect of fire safety, structural safety, public safety and public health
  • empower occupants on building safety – including their own and their neighbours’ safety – and access to information, and facilitate training to support them and their obligations to other stakeholders.

Crucially, clause 4.1.4 states that the building safety manager shall, on behalf of the accountable person, co-operate with the responsible person as designated under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 (the responsible person could be the building safety manager). The building safety manager should verify that all roles for the purpose of cooperating and coordinating with authorities and occupants on fire safety are clearly defined, to avoid misunderstanding as to responsibilities, decisions and actions.

Another significant provision is clause 5.4, which states that building safety managers shall recognise the limits of their own competence and seek additional resources when the need arises.

The PAS requires the building safety manager to be competent in each of the following areas: governance; leadership and teamwork; building systems and safety; building operations; risk management; and change management. Within each of these areas, the building safety manager needs to have the following core competencies: behaviour; fire safety, structural safety and public safety; managing building safety; knowledge management and communication; and buildings as systems, building systems and construction products.

Clause 7.1.4 addresses the golden thread of information and safety case. The building safety manager is expected to:

  • understand the safety case process
  • lead the identification of the key elements of the golden thread principles, so that risks are proactively identified and response measures are put in place and maintained
  • construct and establish an effective monitoring programme, including conducting regular reviews and updates of golden thread information, occupant feedback and other key documentation
  • use collected information to assist in developing and maintaining a robust safety case, taking into account key factors such as building complexity and condition, material changes, occupant behaviours and the building’s registration
  • assist in the production or procurement of the safety case report and any review of it.

Under clause 7.16, the building safety manager needs to recognise and understand the importance of accurate and verified documented information at the building and organisation level, including exchanging information with occupants and other key stakeholders.

On building design and construction, the building safety manager needs to be able to demonstrate the principles of building design, the key components of the building and their implications for maintenance; define the principle of compartmentation and its impact on the design, construction, management, maintenance, operation and use of the building; explain the design features of the building that support safe and orderly evacuation; and explain the features of the building that are designed to limit the spread of fire and control smoke and toxic chemical emissions (clause 7.3.1). The building safety manager should also be able to:

  • explain the principles of the structural design of buildings and the factors that can affect structural stability
  • understand the structural performance and fire safety of fabric and materials in buildings
  • identify exposed structural elements, fabric and materials of construction that display characteristics which warrant examination by specialists
  • identify and assess any event or circumstance that might call into question the integrity of the building structure, fabric or fit-out, or the performance of materials
  • understand the process and implications of undertaking construction works during occupation, and propose suitable measures to maintain building safety in such situations.

Further detailed requirements for building safety managers include knowledge or understanding of the interaction of building components and systems and building safety systems and protection. On fire safety management, the building safety manager should be able to:

  • interpret the principles and benefits of a building fire management strategy and the required response measures to deliver, manage and maintain safe buildings
  • recognise and support the role of the principal designer on design, construction and operational features of the building for fire prevention and protection
  • inform and assist in the preparation of the building’s fire management strategy
  • interpret requirements as set out in regulations and standards and/or by manufacturers for testing and maintaining fire prevention and protection systems, to verify their correct operation and record all relevant information
  • understand all passive and active fire safety features that can be included in a building, and how they work together to create the overall fire safety strategy for the building
  • understand the need for, and describe the operation of, fire alarm, fire evacuation systems and fire suppression systems.

Annex A describes the ways in which building safety managers may attain and demonstrate their knowledge, skills and competence, including by third party assessment and validation. Annex B sets out education and training pathways, while Annex C sets out areas of competence and how they map onto the core competencies.

Public consultation on PAS 8673 closed on 15 September and it is scheduled to be published in December 2021.

Read the draft PAS, here.

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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