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Project Engineer, UL

June 15, 2021

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Building Safety Managers – the future for compliance?

Simon Ince, Project Engineer at UL, explores why defining the future role of Building Safety Managers is imperative to improve the standards of building management to protect people from fire and other risks.

This is the first of two articles, the second of which can be found here: Competence – A fundamental part of building safety

Keeping people safe inside buildings is vital for those responsible for a building’s management, particularly in a multi-occupied residential or a high-risk setting. To keep people safe, those with the duty of care must have a robust management system in place. They must take safety seriously and plan and resource accordingly.

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Astonishingly, however, many buildings are still managed haphazardly and without structure or control. Sometimes building managers have questionable competence, caused by management teams imposing safety duties on employees without providing sufficient training or support.

One new development that will undoubtedly improve the standard of management within buildings is the acceptance of a standard definition of the role of Building Safety Manager (BSM).

As part of the work following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy and the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt, this key position has been subject to much discussion. A position which was undoubtedly insufficiently defined, vague and open to interpretation as to what responsibilities and duties were required. More importantly, there was little consensus on which key life safety critical roles BSMs must undertake.

How must this position be defined? Currently the British Standards Institution (BSI) is rapidly developing, via its Flex project, a Publicly Available Standard (PAS) document that will provide clear guidance on the role of the BSM. This PAS will draw influence from the recommendations made by the Competence Steering Groups Working Group 8, who published “Safer People, Safer Homes: Building Safety Management.” This document sets out the competences required for any person or an organisation holding the role of BSM.

What will a PAS for the BSM facilitate? With good management of a building being so important for safety, having an accountable person with defined responsibilities and duties will help with the routine management of the property. The existence of well trained and qualified professionals overseeing vital maintenance, inspections, procurement and repairs should reduce risk and help ensure that issues are dealt with promptly.

In addition to the physical fire protection measures, BSMs will help with engaging with residents, keeping structured records and reducing risk to as low a level as is reasonably practical through a safety case approach. This will help improve safety within those buildings in scope and for those owners’ operators who use the PAS as a guide to compliance.

Why is this role innovative? The work around the BSM is part of a wider movement to increase accountability, competence and traceability in the housing and construction sectors, and having a BSM taking control of occupied buildings is a smart and obvious thing to do.

Can smart and obvious be innovative? Absolutely, as the role of a professional building safety manager is much needed!

UL continues to support the drive in the UK for improved standards by offering independent testing, inspection, training and certification services.

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