Author : Maryanne Bowring
One of the most shocking aspects of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, is how little residents were listened to. They were well aware that their building had numerous safety issues but had no one to take up their concerns. So an important part of the Government’s draft Building Safety Bill is the creation of the new role of the Building Safety Manager or BSM. The aim is to put a BSM in every higher-risk block around the country to prevent that lack of resident engagement from ever happening again.
The BSM will look after the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety in higher-risk buildings. These are blocks 18m or higher, or of six or more storeys. A vital part of the job will be to act as the day-to-day contact for residents to air any fire and building safety related issues they may be concerned about. But what else will they be expected to do?
A new report titled Safer people, safer homes: Building Safety Management published last month, sets out the skills that BSMs will need and explains exactly what the job will include. The report is the end result of two years of work by a wide range of property experts who work in social housing, commercial and residential management, facilities management, health and safety and fire safety.
For someone to become a BSM, the report recommends that they must be able to demonstrate relevant experience in managing building risk and hold a recognised professional qualification. It also proposes that a certification scheme is set up, plus a national BSM register that could be overseen by the new Building Regulator.
The new role is one that should appeal to managing agents with proven experience in fire and building safety management – or to block managers keen to upskill in order to take on a new challenge. For residents there are plenty of plus points in having a fire and building safety expert available to deal with problems as they arise, rather than having to wait for their property manager to commission a consultant to deal with their issues. But there are still big questions to be answered about the extent of the liability that the BSM will be expected to shoulder – and how easy it will be for those professionals to take out the levels of insurance that they will need to do the job.
Mary-Anne Bowring FIRPM FRICS FARLA FCABE Founder/Head of Asset Management
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