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RIBA sets mandatory architects’ safety competence test post-Grenfell

Chartered members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) will have to pass a new test from next year, which will demonstrate their competence in safeguarding building users. 

RIBA sets mandatory architects’ safety competence test post-Grenfell
James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

The compulsory test is RIBA’s response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, published in May as a response to the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, which resulted in the death of 71 residents.

RIBA has said that architects have come under “increasing pressure” in the wake of the fire to show the construction industry, clients and procuring bodies that they have the right level of safety and health competence and the appropriate skills to ensure the safety of residents.

One of the proposals in the former Health and Safety Executive (HSE) chair’s final report was that the Architects Registration Board (ARB), which regulates the architectural profession, should be tasked with scrutinising both the fire-safety competency of architects applying to join the ARB’s Register of Architects and those already on it.

According to the Architects’ Journal many architects have argued that RIBA is better placed to deliver the “culture shift” in building safety Hackitt’s report called for.

RIBA has been working with the HSE and other bodies since 2015 to better position architects as professionals with appropriate safety and health knowledge to undertake the duties of designers, and in many instances the duties of principal designers, under CDM 2015. 

The curriculum for RIBA’s mandatory test, which will be developed over the new few months, will cover architects’ responsibilities as dutyholders under CDM 2015 and other legislation, as well as design risk management and personal safety and health when working away from the office. 

Chartered members are expected to already have appropriate safety and health knowledge as set by the architectural education criteria and ongoing requirements of at least two hours formal CPD in safety and health per year. In addition, under RIBA’s code of conduct, members can only accept work for which they have the necessary knowledge, skills and resources. 

Adrian Dobson, RIBA’s executive director of professional services, said: “All UK-based chartered members will be required to undertake the mandatory health and life safety test. Existing members will have at least 12 months to prepare and pass the test. Like a driving licence examination, it will be competency-based and you will be allowed to retake the test, but a chartered member’s membership would be suspended until they have demonstrated competency.”

However, Geoff Wilkinson from Wilkinson Construction Consultants, and a regulatory contributor to the Architects’ Journal said that the test was an admission that existing training had failed to equip architects with the necessary safety and health skills. 

He added: “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.”


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton was previously acting editor of IOSH Magazine. Before that he was editor of SHP and he has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner


  • Providing the test is a

    Permalink Submitted by Jeffrey Smith on 7 September 2018 - 01:15 pm

    Providing the test is a worthwhile exercise, I commend the RIBA for taking a lead rather than waiting for someone else to impose a test.
    While CDM endeavours to stress that those who take design-related decisions should be accountable for them, it would be good for some project managers and budget controllers to be more accountable and less able to exert pressure on designers to bend rules and to make ill-judged decisions.

  • This increase in competence

    Permalink Submitted by Mike Flannery on 7 September 2018 - 01:39 pm

    This increase in competence is to be applauded, particularly in relation to the application of CDM 2015. When architects start to address the requirement of 11(3) with due acknowledgement of S. 40 of the HASAWA '74, then a giant leap forward will have been made and CDM will really come into its own.

  • RIBA action though worthy

    Permalink Submitted by Steve Leonard on 12 September 2018 - 01:21 pm

    RIBA action though worthy achieved little. The French system is better. They have ONE, yes one book to cover regs. for the whole of the country! No cost cutting councils can avoid responsibility.


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