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How can you prepare for the Health & Life Safety competency test?

Dieter Bentley-Gockmann is the author of the RIBA’s new handbook for embedding health and safety in design. He explains how it provides essential information that will support members in the future mandatory competency test.

28 April 2021

The RIBA Health and Safety Guide is a companion guide that has been prepared to support members in maintaining their professional competency in health and safety.

This is one of the proposed Mandatory Competences set out in The Way Ahead, the RIBA’s introduction to a new education and professional development framework. The RIBA is seeking feedback from members and other stakeholders on the introduction of Mandatory Competences and members are asked to provide feedback by 17 June 2021.

“The Health and Safety Guide sets out what an architect’s professional competence should be," explains Dieter Bentley-Gockmann. He is Director of EPR Architects, Chair of the RIBA Regulation and Standards Group, and author of the guide.

It has been developed in tandem with the RIBA’s forthcoming Health & Life Safety Mandatory Competency. But Bentley-Gockmann explains that it is also, more generally, a useful study resource for architectural students and a good reference manual for best practice among all professional architects.

"We have worked hard with both industry and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to pitch this guide at the right level. We have also consulted at length with members to get their feedback.”

The Health & Life Safety test will go live on the RIBA CPD Academy in April 2021 as a pilot and details of how to take the test will be published in due course. Any successful passes by RIBA Members who take it while it is voluntary will be recorded and will still count towards the proposed Mandatory Competency.

The test is intended to become compulsory for members by the end of 2022 as a pre-condition of the 2023 membership subscription year renewal.

Bentley-Gockmann appreciates that many RIBA Members will have queries over the content of the competency test. He is keen to reassure them that it relates to standard practice professional procedures and knowledge.

“We know some people have had concerns that the tests might involve material not relevant to them. This guide will show them that this is not the case.”

“For competent, practicing architects, this guide will really be a reminder of what you already know. It is a re-affirmation that safe practice and design should be at the heart of what we do.”

The Health & Life Safety competency test will be launched in April 2021. The RIBA Health & Safety Guide covers key concerns that the test will focus on.

For example, the early chapters of the Health & Safety Guide deal with site visits, covering topics such as:

  • being adequately prepared to undertake a visit safely (both before and during construction)
  • guidance on significant or typical hazards you might face
  • how these hazards might be managed

Newly qualified and junior architects are the professionals who probably stand to benefit the most from this on-site guidance information.

“One of the biggest health and safety concerns with less-experienced architects is that they may not have the confidence to speak up when they see something unacceptable,” Bentley-Gockmann points out.

“They may be unsure whether it is their position to be concerned about it. They need to have the confidence to insist the situation is not right.”

Other chapters cover topics such as:

  • Design risk management: the general principles of prevention and the role of effective communication and coordination
  • Statute, Guidance and Codes of Conduct: the regulations standards and non-statutory guidance with which architects need to be familiar
  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015: the legal duties imposed on designers and principal designers under the CDM Regulations
  • Principles of fire safety design: basic fire science and the fire performance of construction materials and key aspects of fire safety design

Bentley-Gockmann says it is important to understand that the RIBA guide is ultimately reminding architects of a bedrock standard of competency.

“In theory, it should not be telling a competent practising architect anything new,” he points out. “If it does, then it will be doing its job: revealing an area of understanding worth improving.”

The RIBA Health and Safety Guide is available now.

Read more about the intentions and proposals of The Way Ahead document and the new RIBA Education and Professional Development Framework.

The RIBA is currently seeking feedback on the content of the Health & Life Safety mandatory competence. Share your views here.

Thanks to Dieter Bentley-Gockmann, Director, EPR Architects.

Text by Neal Morris. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas.

RIBA Core Curriculum: Health, safety and wellbeing.

As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, Professional Features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD Core Curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as an RIBA Chartered Member.

Article updated on 1 April 2021.

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