Every chartered UK architect will be required to pass a mandatory health and safety test as a direct result of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.
The Royal Institute of British Architects announced that the test would launch in 2019, and would cover roles, responsibilities and legislation, design risk management and personal health and safety when working away from the office.
Existing members of the RIBA would be given a year to pass the test before renewing their membership for 2021.
The test is a direct result of Judith Hackitt’s call for professional bodies to raise their competency standards as part of her review into the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 people (see related article). In her review, Hackitt said it was industry indifference and ignorance, not flammable cladding, that led to the fire.
RIBA executive director of professional services, Adrian Dobson, said the last couple of years had seen architects put under pressure to demonstrate their health and safety competency to clients and industry.
“In developing this new test we will give our members the evidence they need to demonstrate their competence in managing health and safety and building users’ life safety. The test will also help safeguard our members when visiting site before and during construction.”
“Like a driving licence examination it will be competency-based and you will be allowed to re-take the test, but a chartered member’s membership would be suspended until they had demonstrated competency.”
Currently, RIBA members are expected to have appropriate health and safety knowledge, and must complete at least two hours of formal Continuing Professional Development in HSE each year.
Building regulations and fire safety expert Geoff Wilkinson told Architects’ Journal that the test is an admission that existing training has failed the industry.
“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.”
“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 (Color Design Management) is laudable, competence really needs to be assessed on a project-by-project basis to match to the actual risks presented by that project.”