Jane Embury looks at the role of duty holder in proposed legislation.
Fire safety is our business at Wrightstyle.
Over the years, we have drawn the attention of governments here and internationally to issues that we believed needed to be addressed.
But we still see too many instances of poor fire safety. From badly-fitted fire doors to inappropriate fire screens with too little protection.
We have also drawn attention to glazing safety requirements being watered down from 60 minutes of fire protection to 30 minutes. Within the law, but an exercise simply to save money.
Therefore, a new government proposal on fire safety is one that we have already wholeheartedly supported.
Building Safety Bill
This introduces the concept of “duty holders” responsible for managing a building’s safety from commissioning through to delivery.
The duty holder proposal is contained in a draft Building Safety Bill which was published in July 2020.
The draft Bill establishes a Building Safety Regulator, who will have powers to set competence requirements.
Importantly, the duty holder post would carry a legal responsibility. There. would be criminal sanction for anybody who fails to take their obligations seriously.
What the draft Bill fails to address are the specifics of the role. Those will be covered in secondary legislation.
However, explanatory notes to the draft Bill do provide some detail. In particular, duty holders involved with “higher-risk” buildings will have formal responsibilities to ensure compliance with Building Regulations.
It’s an important step because, as we’ve seen with the Grenfell Tower inquiry, building safety can fall between several professional cracks.
The notes also say that a duty holder role may be fulfilled either by an individual or a legal entity.
The notes also say that there will be a duty to govern the way building work is carried out, so that building safety does not become a tick-box exercise.
There will also be a requirement for all duty holders to report safety concerns to the Regulator throughout the building lifecycle.
If the draft Bill becomes law, as we’ve seen with the Grenfell Tower inquiry, there will no longer be an opaque trail of evidence and responsibility.
The Regulator will have powers to prosecute all offences in the Building Act. Crucially, prosecutions could be brought up to ten years from the date of the alleged breach.
It all reflects a principle recommendation of the Hackitt Review. That of having identifiable people who can be held accountable for managing building safety.
For the construction industry, it means that competency must be established, and enforced, from main contractor downwards through the sub-contractor chain.
In short, it means that everyone involved in the built environment will have to take building safety a lot more seriously. We second that.