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CROSS Safety Report

Building control and budget limitations

Report ID: 389 Published: 1 January 2015 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter is concerned that many local authorities do not seem to have the knowledge or impetus to address some technical issues even if the legislation is there for them as a course of action.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • Be aware that the responsibility for the adequacy of submissions of calculations to building control lies with the originating designer

  • The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is currently preparing a guide to submissions under Part A and an Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) Committee is looking at similar issues

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A reporter is concerned that many local authorities do not seem to have the knowledge or impetus to address some technical issues even if the legislation is there for them as a course of action. The reporter quite often finds building control no longer have an internal structural engineer to review calculations or cast an eye over issues identified by building inspectors on site.

The reporter's firm was recently contacted by one building control officer to ask if they checked their own calculations internally. It transpired that if there had been an internal check they would not review them or else they would have sent them out to an external party.

The reporter understands that quite often external checking engineers are on a very limited budget. The other possible port of call would be the local Environmental Health Officer (EHO) who, says the reporter, quite often have limited knowledge of structural matters. The reporter suspects there won’t actually be many structural engineers that are aware of the EHO’s potential role in such an eventuality.

Expert Panel Comments

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Building control bodies have a duty to satisfy themselves that Part A of the building regulations have been complied with. These checks have never been for every nut and bolt, as the ultimate responsibility rests with the client, the designer, and the contractor.

It is a legitimate question for a local authority to ask about the level of internal and third party checks as this may help to inform them about the depth of checking that the building control body undertakes. Other factors such as complexity and risk are also considered.

Adequacy of design submissions

It would be expected, however, that internal checking would not be a substitute for any review. The responsibility for the adequacy of submissions lies with the originating designer. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is currently preparing a guide to submissions under Part A and an Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) Committee is looking at similar issues.

 So far as an EHO is concerned the following extract is from the HSE web site:

Enforcement of health and safety law is split between HSE and Local Authorities (LAs) depending upon the activity undertaken by the duty holder.  Local authorities, as with HSE, provide advice and guidance on the management of risk and what the law requires, conduct inspections and investigations, and take enforcement action where appropriate.’ 

Role of Environmental Health Officer (EHO)

An EHO will therefore carry out the same function as a HSE inspector in relation to a work activity for which they are the enforcing authority.  Whilst the HSE are the enforcing authority for a majority of construction work, where construction work comes under local authority enforcement, EHOs are able to call upon technical support from HSE if required. It is not uncommon for both HSE and building control to be jointly involved in cases where there are concerns over stability and the safety.

The issue of resources and experience is not confined to local authorities, the construction industry as a whole faces similar issues. Private sector approved inspectors face the same commercial pressures as local authority building control and it is often clients who drive down fees for building control without appreciating the benefits of having a thorough independent check.

Indeed, this report could be an incentive to designers to remind their clients that there is no second line of defence and to stress the importance of engaging competent firms and people.

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