New dawn for building safety: Glazing leader reports from major conference

Jon Vanstone, chair of Certass Trade Association

This year will be definitive for building safety, a glazing industry leader has reported, after attending a major building safety conference last week. Jon Vanstone, chair of the UKAS-accredited certification body, Certass, attended the first-ever meeting of the Building Safety Regulator, which took place at Central Hall Westminster, London on Wednesday 22 March 2023.

Sarah Newton, chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), provided the opening address at the conference, we have been told. Her address was followed by a statement given by Lee Rowley MP. A range of experts took part in the conference, including Dame Judith Hackitt. Sessions focussed on the progress made so far with regards to building safety in the UK, as well as the changes that are to come in future to drive further improvements to building safety and industry-wide competence in future.

In his role as chair of the Interim Industry Competence Committee, Jon joined a panel discussion at the conference, alongside leaders from the Construction Leadership Council, the Building Safety Programme and the Competence Steering Group. That discussion focussed on how a collaborative approach can drive standards of competency across the whole UK construction sector.

“It was refreshing to be part of an industry discussion where there is a real appetite for organisations to work collaboratively towards the same outcome – to make buildings safer to live, work and sleep,” Jon explained. “From an industry perspective, decisions need to be made on how we can continuously improve on the competence of companies and individuals, the quality of products and our technical capabilities, in order to deliver compliant, competent work that meets the standards set out by the Building Safety Act.

“Though there is a particular focus on high-risk buildings (HRBs) in the first instance, it was reinforced on Wednesday that the HSE will oversee even the smallest domestic installations. Everyone will be in scope, and everyone will have a responsibility to prove competence. Ignorance of the regulator is not an excuse and will not be accepted.”

Conference delegates agreed that the year 2023 will be a definitive year for building safety in England, Jon reported, adding that the consensus in the room was that people who think the Building Safety Act disruptive need to improve their standards. “Increased regulatory and legal responsibility is on the way,” he added. “The regime will also see the appointment of principle accountable persons, who will be held accountable for the safety of HRBs.”

“There was a tonne of information shared during the day. Many of the plans in place for the year ahead will have a direct effect on the glazing industry, so our sector needs to stay in the know, and plan ahead for the new competence landscape.”