How should you use the new building safety competence standards?

Cranes set against a London skyline of tall buildings (Photo 45299671 © Irstone |
Photo 45299671 © Irstone |

BSI has developed a new suite of building safety standards. Clare Price explains how to use them.

The new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) has been established in England to oversee the safe design, construction and occupation of higher-risk buildings (HRBs). While the establishment of the BSR in England is intended to oversee a new, more stringent regime for HRBs, it also aims to drive improvements in building safety and performance in all buildings.

As part of the regulatory transformation there is a requirement for two safety-critical roles, namely the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor, with building safety responsibilities. These dutyholders are required to have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviours for the role, alongside any sector-specific competences.

Essentially, these dutyholders require an overarching understanding of all aspects of building safety, and individuals carrying out the Principal Contractor role are expected to demonstrate they have the appropriate competence to:

a) interrogate design and construction activity;
b) challenge the quality of work and bad practices; and
c) identify major hazards and minimize the risk to safety during building use.

The Built Environment Competence Standards work programme

BSI, sponsored by DLUHC and working with HSE and the sector, has spent two years developing a new suite of building safety standards covering competence in the built environment to support the new Building Safety regime.

The Built Environment Competence Standards (BECS) work programme ran from 2020-2022 and its output includes:

  • A framework standard, BSI Flex 8670, setting core criteria for building safety competence frameworks;
  • Three PAS documents setting out requirements for two dutyholder roles, Principal Designer (PAS 8671) and Principal Contractor (PAS 8672), and for those responsible for the management of safety (PAS 8673); and
  • A new BSI technical committee, CPB/1 Competence in the Built Environment, to manage standards output.
Who are the building safety competence standards for?
  • The suite of standards is applicable to those working on new and existing buildings of all types and scale across the design, build, and management life cycle;
  • The standards are applicable to individuals not organizations;
  • BSI Flex 8670 is applicable to those developing or updating sector or sub-sector competence frameworks to ensure a harmonised approach to competence across the sector; and
  • The PAS documents are for use by:
    – those carrying out a specific role or function (i.e. Principal Designer, Principal Contractor, managing safety)
    – those assessing the professional’s competence
How is building safety competence standardised?

BSI Flex 8670 sets out core criteria for competence including:

  • Building safety aspects 
    a) Fire, structural and public safety; 
    b) Managing building safety; 
    c) Knowledge management and communication; and 
    d) Buildings as systems, building systems, products and materials. 
  • Behaviours 
    a) Act ethically;
    b) Demonstrate leadership;
    c) Manage competence;
    d) Demonstrate personal responsibility; and
    e) Respect duty of care to others.
What about the Principal Contractor competence?

PAS 8672 provides requirements based on the recommendations and core criteria set out in BSI Flex 8670 with regards to:

  • roles and responsibilities;
  • skills, knowledge and experience;
  • behaviours and ethics;
  • additional competences for higher-risk buildings (HRBs); and
  • limits of competence.

It also describes competences common to all Principal Contractors and those which are additional for those undertaking the dutyholder’s role of Principal Contractor on HRBs.

Is a single Principal Contractor expected to know everything?

No sole individual can be expected to possess the full range of competences given the breadth and complexity of building works. However, Principal Contractors are expected to have sufficient technical expertise for ensuring building safety, compliance with building regulations and the quality of work by others under their responsibility.

Principal Contractors are also expected to possess managerial expertise that enables them to effectively liaise with all others undertaking or supplying building work, materials/products or services for buildings. Being able to manage the information flow from the client and designer through to the building’s end-users is critical to achieving compliance with building regulations so that all buildings are safe and perform throughout their lifetime.

How do I demonstrate competence in the Principal Contractor role?

PAS 8672 Annex A provides advice and guidance on education, training and competence assessment. The standard is not intended to replace existing professional and technical training or competence frameworks for building professionals, but it does recommend that these are reviewed and updated to reflect the full range of competences required for the Principal Contractor role.

Which organisations can carry out assessments of Principle Contractors?

Third-party assessment and validation of Principal Contractors can be provided by organizations that are qualified for this purpose either through their constitution and codes of conduct or through accreditation by a regulated body. Professional bodies, learned societies and trade bodies, whose independence and standards of conduct are open to scrutiny, are appropriate organizations in this context.

How do I learn more about the building safety competence standards? Further information and the suite of building safety standards, including PAS 8672, is available for free download from

Clare Price is sector lead at BSI.

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