CROSS Safety Report
Local authorities and approved inspectors
This report is over 2 years old
A reporter is very concerned that the system of building control where there is competition between local authorities and approved inspectors, has produced a situation where the level of independent inspection has fallen dramatically.
Key Learning Outcomes
For policy makers:
Consider setting standards for building control inspections and the competency of those carrying them out
For the construction team
Remember that inspections by either building control or an approved inspector do not remove the responsibility for design or construction
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A reporter is very concerned that the system of building control where there is competition between local authorities and approved inspectors, has produced a situation where the level of independent inspection has fallen dramatically. Building control has served well over the years and has contributed to preventing structural failures and increased the quality of construction. From personal experience, the reporter can cite examples where the independent check has picked up potentially dangerous design and construction situations.
The level of competition at present means that fees for building control are much lower than in the past, certainly for the large commercial developments with which the reporter is involved. This is due to the fact that approved inspectors undercut the Local Authority charges by huge amounts.
The local authority must then reduce fees to be able to win any work, as the clients or their representatives seek to appoint the cheapest building control body without regard to the service provided. This means that, as the local authority must recover its costs, the level of inspection has to go down. The scope of the regulations is also expanding, putting greater pressure on resources.
The reporter would be careful to comment on the level of inspection and checking provided by Approved Inspectors, but as commercial entities making a profit, they must logically be under the same if not greater pressure to reduce the number of inspections.
For the majority of projects, less frequent building control inspections would not necessarily be a problem, but there are a number where the level of site inspection by main contractors is nil and combined with a reluctance to employ resident engineers the reporter perceives that some projects get very little independent checking.
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While competition has generally improved customer service, there may be instances where this has led to deficiencies and errors. In the last few years, there is an impression that many developers pay more attention to getting the paperwork in order rather than being interested in the inspection regime.
Possible conflict between local authorities and approved inspectors is a serious issue that needs to be reviewed as part of the current debate in the industry. The responsibilities in law of checkers, whether from local authorities or approved inspectors, should be clarified. CROSS would be pleased to have other data about the relationships between local authorities and approved inspectors on structural issues.