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’.