New Health and Safety Test for Architects

New Health and Safety Test for Architects

10th September 2018

Some more fallout this month from the Hackitt Review, the independent review of building regulations that was set up to investigate the Grenfell Tower fire and deliver recommendations on the future regulatory system.  The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced that henceforth every chartered member of RIBA will have to pass a mandatory health and safety test.  The test will be introduced in 2019 and architects will be given a year to pass the test before reviewing their membership for the 2021 subscription year.  Resits of the test will be allowed, although membership will be suspended until competence has been proved with a successful test result.

According to RIBA, the decision was taken as a direct result of the Hackitt Review and recommendations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the introduction of CDM 2015.

The test curriculum will be developed in the coming months and the test will be designed to cover the following issues:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Legislation
  • Design risk management
  • Personal health and safety whilst working away from the office

Members of RIBA are expected to already have an appropriate level of knowledge regarding health and safety as part of the architectural education criteria and there is currently an ongoing requirement for members to undertake at least two hours’ formal CPD (continuous professional development) in health and safety annually.  Under RIBA’s code of conduct members can only accept work for which they already have the necessary skills, knowledge and resources. 

However, in future, every UK-based chartered member of RIBA will be required to undergo the mandatory health and safety test.  The test itself will be competency based and resits will be allowed, with chartered membership suspended until competency is clearly demonstrated with a pass result.  Current members of RIBA will have at least 12 months to prepare for and pass the test. 

According to RIBA, since the Grenfell tragedy and the subsequent Hackitt Review of Building Regulations, architects have come under increasing pressure to demonstrate to clients that they have the appropriate skills to ensure the safety of residents.  Dame Judith Hackitt was a former chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive and is currently Chair of the manufacturing trade body EEF (the UK manufacturers’ association, formerly known as the Engineering Employees’ Federation.  As Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety which was commissioned by the government following the Grenfell Tower fire. 

News of the new test has been greeted with mixed reactions as some believe that the test is an admission that existing training had failed to provide architects with the necessary health and safety skills.  There is also some concern that the test may just be paying “lip service” as it is likely to fall short of the coverage and detail of courses such as those provided by the Association for Project Safety (APS).  While the intention to improve the knowledge and awareness of CDM is deemed laudable, competence should really be assessed on a project by project basis in order to match the actual risks presented by each individual project.

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