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RIBA to make members take post-Grenfell health and safety test

RIBA Portland Place

The RIBA has announced it is introducing a new compulsory health and safety test for all its members in the wake of the Grenfell fire

According to the institute, since the tragedy in 2017 and the subsequent Hackitt Review of Building Regulations, architects have come under ‘increasing pressure’ to show clients they have appropriate skills to ensure residents’ safety.

The test, which will launch in 2019, will cover roles, responsibilities and legislation, design risk management and personal health and safety when working away from the office.

Existing members will be given a year to pass the test before renewing their membership for the 2021 subscription year.

The new test is a ‘direct result’ of Judith Hackitt’s call for professional bodies to raise competency in life safety issues, the RIBA said.

The Hackitt report, published in May, proposed that the ARB should be tasked with scrutinising both the fire-safety competency of architects applying to join its register and those already on it.

Many architects reacted angrily to those plans, arguing that the RIBA was better placed to deliver the ‘culture shift’ on building safety the report had called for.

The test is also a result of the RIBA’s work with the Health and Safety Executive to better position architects to undertake the duties of designers, and principal designers, under the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015.

RIBA members are expected to already have appropriate health and safety knowledge and are required to take at least two hours formal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in health and safety per year.

Under the RIBA’s Code of Conduct, members can also only accept work if they have the necessary knowledge, skills and resources.

Building regulations and fire safety expert Geoff Wilkinson said the test was an admission that existing training had failed to equip architects with the necessary health and safety skills.

‘The concern is that this test may still just be lip service as it will fall short of the coverage and detail of courses such as the Association for Project Safety (APS) courses, for instance,’ he said.

‘Even those courses wouldn’t deal with the specific details of the cladding and fire safety issues arising from Grenfell. So whilst the aim of improving architects’ knowledge and awareness of CDM is laudable, competence really needs to be assessed on a project-by-project basis to match to the actual risks presented by that project.’

The test curriculum will be developed over the next few months. 


Chris Roche, founder, 11.04 Architects Mandatory health and safety certification for architects makes sense, and needs to be reinforced with JCT Contract modifications to allow architects to enforce appropriate action against contractors who fail to observe best health and safety practice – this will reduce the risk of accidents occurring, reinforce the authority of an architect on site, and possibly reduce the risk of fires occurring during construction’.


Readers' comments (11)

  • Probably all that will be achieved by this is a mass exodus of the membership.

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  • Now is the time to look at everything? Training? Does society need the RIBA and ARB? British Standards, European Standards, Building Regs, local rules, product standards, kite marks? How effective is CPD?

    It doesn’t need to become like teaching, where you are assessed every 3 months, but things do need tightening to reassure the public. Doctors are coming under scrutiny in the light of recent events, and all the professions are increasingly under scrutiny?

    So get together RIBA, ARB and other Technicians bodies, and sort this out before a heavy handed government starts blundering around?

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  • Corblimer. Completely agree.
    This is just virtue signalling, notwithstanding an understanding of H&S is required. It would be a far better approach to H&S if the RIBA in its certifying role of Colleges insisted that students are taught some elementary building science and how to design even basic but credible construction information. All the ones I interview couldn't detail a dog kennel and none have the slightest clue as to what a vapour barrier is, let alone having had any guidance to kick them off down a lifelong interest in the potential hazards associated with building design.

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  • At Oxpoly in the 70s we were given a solid grounding in all aspects of the job, and were examined in it, and expected to incorporate this knowledge in projects. Likewise my cousin at Cambridge. But nothing at the AA? The creatives depended on the technicians, but these days the CAD team need guiding, mainly because they tend to be from abroad?

    Something went badly wrong at Grenfell, and has at many other under insulated flat blocks? Put it right before it happens again, and think about how we evacuate buildings in case of fire? Especially where there is only one means of escape. Offices have escape drills. Why not domestic properties? My local authority has not looked at this, even in their 22 storey blocks?

    Term begins in October. Have the teaching staff built anything? Do they have part time staff from local practises? Again, we did at Oxford. Heads of schools, what are you providing for your fees over 5 years?

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  • This is a nonsense.
    What went wrong at Grenfell was that the architects (who by the way designed a completely non-combustible cladding system) were over-ruled by ignorant cost-cutters and cladding installers eager to profit.
    It did not help that the Building Regulations were lax enough to allow the combination of materials eventually used.

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  • Hackitt of course had just come from being director of the Manufacturer's association (a likely conflict of interest), and took evidence from the manufacturers of the insulations used at Grenfell.
    Said manufacturers had also been directing Building Regulations via the Building regulations Advisory Committee.

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  • The RIBA thinks it OK to clad buildings in combustible cladding and insulation up to 18 M high. That is not safe. It puts lives at risk, as well as changing the conceptual basis of means of escape in case of fire and fire rescue in this country.

    David Berridge AADipl and definitely not RIBA

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  • I think a corporate test would be more appropriate than one for individuals...maybe a requirement for Chartered Practice? Sound practice composition is surely about complimentary skills and knowledge...skills and knowledge that are then disseminated and audited within.

    Stephen Hodder PPRIBA Deputy Chair CIC

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  • I'm all for the RIBA administering a separate 'test' for those architects who are Principal Designers as an additional qualification and in place of other registration schemes, but not this proposal.

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  • Daniel Lacey

    Scrap Part B. Use the British Standards with compulsory Fire Engineers on the design team.

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