President’s Column: April 2023
The Grenfell Tower disaster occurred on 14th June 2017. Despite the rigorous enquiries and the publication of Building a Safer Future Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, in May 2018, it is only now that the major recommendations are filtering down to change behaviour. Although there were many recommendations, the one that I want to discuss in more detail is that there will be a lot more emphasis in the future on steelwork contractors showing evidence that they are both competent and capable to execute the contract. Initially it was thought that the Building Safety Act only applied to high-rise high-risk buildings, but its scope is wider and Building Regulations, clients and insurance companies are looking for the supply chain to demonstrate its competence and capability for all buildings.
BCSA member companies are already assessed for these requirements through the BCSA’s Register of Qualified Steelwork Contractors (Buildings) (RQSC – Buildings). Until recently, the BCSA’s RQSC – Buildings assessment has only been open to members of the BCSA, but at a recent BCSA Council meeting it was felt that we had a moral responsibility to open this registration to other non-member steelwork contractors. Yes, there is a charge, but there is a discount for BCSA members to encourage non-members to fully embrace the full benefits of membership rather than ‘cherry picking’ certain parts, just to get a tick in the box. The BCSA spends an inordinate amount of time ensuring its members are advised as early as possible of all new legislation and best working practices in the industry. Perhaps, the majority of non-members don’t know what they are missing, or don’t appreciate what they are not doing, which could compromise the reliability of their product. One of the best ways to argue that your company is fully committed to continuous improvement is by being a member of the BCSA.
RQSC – Buildings will be a mandatory requirement in the corrigenda to the latest version of the NSSS and the corrigenda will be freely available to download from the BCSA’s new website, which will be launched on 1st April 2023, www.bcsa.org.uk/nsss. Further information on the RQSC – Buildings can be found at www.bcsa.org.uk/rqsc-buildings. All readers of this publication will, I’m sure, be aware that a full list of RQSC – Buildings companies can be found at the back of this publication.
It became clear in the Hackitt report that the “race to the bottom” approach to procurement and the failure to adequately allocate design responsibilities are both now causing concern at the highest level. The BCSA published a guide on Allocation of Design Responsibilities in Constructional Steelwork in 2007. Whilst some of the references admittedly need updating, the procedure and sentiment in that guide to providing clarity on roles and responsibilities is both highly recommended and highly relevant today.
Finally, when things do go badly wrong, there is too much covering up of the root causes of the failure. Companies are worried about damage to their reputation and/or constraints from their client and insurers about the commercial aspects of failure. Other industries are mandated by government to share the reasons behind such failures to the industry at large so that the industry learns rather than merely just the individual companies concerned. Whilst we do have CROSS-UK (Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK), perhaps it is time for something stronger.