Clause 78 - Duty to appoint building safety manager

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 19th October 2021.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 79 to 82 stand part.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

The independent review recommend the creation of the role of the building safety manager with the right skills, knowledge and experience to oversee the day-to-day management of higher-risk buildings. The Government agree, and the clause both establishes the role of the building safety manager and makes it a duty of the principal accountable person to appoint one for occupied buildings.

It is important that competent persons are engaged to support the co-ordination and management of safety, providing a systemic approach and delivering safe outcomes for residents. The principal accountable person must be satisfied with the competence of their appointed building safety manager.

While the building safety manager will also hold responsibility for certain tasks and provide expertise and assistance, accountability for meeting the duties set out in Bill cannot be transferred by accountable persons. Such an approach is commonplace in the standard arrangement in many high-hazard sectors.

The tasks to be undertaken by the building safety manager will be set out in contract with the principal accountable person. The role may be fulfilled by an individual with the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours or by an organisation such as a managing agent. Where an organisation is appointed, that does not in any way dilute the need for competency requirements to be met. Any organisation appointed as building safety manager must have the capability to deliver and must have a nominated individual in place with the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours needed to oversee that that is achieved. We believe that requiring a named individual to be nominated from within the organisation appointed as building safety manager is the right way to provide assurance to residents. If at any time the appointment of a building safety manager comes to an end, a new one must be appointed as soon as reasonably practical. Given the importance of the role in supporting the delivery of safe buildings, failure to appoint a building safety manager without reasonable excuse will be an offence.

This is a new role and we have been working hard to ensure a smooth transition. Through the competence steering group, we are sponsoring the development of a publicly available specification for building safety managers, which will be available ahead of the requirement coming into force. Latter clauses deal with an exception to the duty to appoint a building safety manager, which allows principal accountable persons to deliver the role themselves where they are suitably able.

Clause 79 relates to the appointment of a building safety manager for a building with two or more accountable persons. The Government strongly support the independent review’s proposals for a whole building approach to be delivered and to do so there should not be multiple building safety managers in place. A single building safety manager should be appointed by the principal accountable person, playing a key role in ensuring a whole building approach to delivering safe outcomes for residents is delivered.

Every accountable person must ensure that they meet the relevant duties placed on them by the Bill, including the duty to co-operate and co-ordinate with one another, ensuring this whole building approach is delivered. Before the appointment can be finalised, accountable persons should agree on the scope of the building safety manager’s role and how each will contribute to payments made to the building safety manager. A consultation between the parties should arrive at this, and ratify the agreement. The principal accountable person must provide a document for other accountable persons setting out the terms of an agreement, including establishing the arrangements for sharing expenditure. By reaching such an agreement, all accountable persons will understand and confirm their support for the scope of the building safety manager’s functions across the whole building and how they must act to enable delivery.

Where no agreement can be reached, we will ensure, through regulations, that appropriate mechanisms are in place to arrive at suitable conclusions. We are confident that through this approach we are protecting property rights, ensuring each accountable person meets their obligations and delivering safe outcomes for residents.

Clause 80 relates to the terms of appointment of building safety managers and confirms that the role is held by virtue of the contractual arrangements agreed with the principal accountable person. Either party may confirm in writing to the other their intention to end the agreement. When that occurs, as set out under clause 78, the appointment of a building safety manager must be made as soon as possible to replace the outgoing building safety manager.

Where a building is put into special measures, the effect will be that the building safety manager’s appointment will cease. As a special measures order is a last resort for failing buildings, special measures managers must be afforded the scope to act in the best interest of residents. In such circumstances, it would not be right for the building safety manager to remain in place.

The independent review highlighted the need to improve the management of safety in occupied higher-risk buildings and recommended the new role of building safety manager. The review rightly noted that many building owners have the capability to, and already do, deliver safe outcomes for residents themselves. As mentioned, we are making provisions to allow principal accountable persons to confirm their capability to deliver safe outcomes without appointing a building safety manager to assist them. This exception is designed with parameters and, importantly, the same competency standards must be met by the principal accountable person.

A principal accountable person must be satisfied in their capabilities to fulfil the duties placed on them and be able to demonstrate that their approach will deliver safe outcomes for residents. It is our expectation that this exception will be a benefit to organisations such as housing associations and local authorities, many of which already successfully manage their own building stock through in-house teams. Where the principal accountable person is an organisation, and it relies on that exception, it must have a named individual identified who has the skills, knowledge and experience to oversee day-to-day management of building safety risks.

The requirements of the new regime are clear. There must be a joined-up approach that looks at building safety risk management and the safety critical elements holistically. To support that, the nominated individual should hold a position of authority within the organisation of the principal accountable person, managing the interactions and the interdependencies of safety critical areas, enabling the effective management of building safety risks. Although we do not expect that they will carry out every task directly, they must have oversight to ensure that an holistic and systemic approach is in place. Residents expect that, and we will ensure that it is delivered. Failure to meet the obligations to nominate a competent individual as set out in the clause will be an offence. If at any time circumstances change and the criteria for meeting the exception no longer apply, a building safety manager must be appointed and the building safety regulator updated.

Clause 82 relates to the exception to the principal accountable person’s duty to appoint a building safety manager in buildings with more than one accountable person. If the principal accountable person has the capability to deliver the building safety manager function, and reaches an agreement with their fellow accountable persons, they too can be exempt from the duty to appoint a building safety manager. Before this can be confirmed, and the regulator notified, the principal accountable person must consult their fellow accountable persons. The consultation and subsequent agreement should align with the process, as would happen if an external building safety manager was appointed by the principal accountable person. Where no agreement can be reached, the process for arriving at a resolution will follow the same course as will be in place for building safety manager appointments in buildings with more than one accountable person. Regulations will be introduced to support those processes, including providing details of the consultation, the written agreement between accountable persons and dispute resolution.

Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Opposition Whip (Commons) 11:00 am, 19th October 2021

Is the certificate transferrable within an organisation to individuals? Would the Health and Safety Executive have some responsibility to ensure that if a new manager came along in the future, or a new accountable person, they would be up to the skills required to qualify for the original certificate?

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

That is an interesting point. As I said, we need to ensure that the building safety regulator is kept informed and they will be able to determine that the new building safety manager appointed meets the criteria set out in the Bill. Effectively, if someone operates as a building safety manager and complies with the criteria set out in the Bill, a change in personnel should not matter because the competence level will be maintained and assured.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 78 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 79 to 82 ordered to stand part of the Bill.