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Hackitt calls for government to regulate engineering competence

Grenfell pa (30)

Government regulation of professional engineering competence is vital to the success of the ICE’s efforts to improve its members’ competence, the leader of the post-Grenfell review of building regulations and fire safety has said.

Dame Hackitt expressed doubts about whether the ICE would be able to implement its own recommendations for improving the professional competence of its members without government intervention. 

The In plain sight review chaired by ICE past President Peter Hansford recommends that professional engineers of all disciplines be subject to competency reviews every “10 or 15 years”. It also highlights the need for greater scrutiny of engineers’ continuing professional development activities, as well as a beefed up confidential reporting system to enable professionals to learn lessons from mistakes made.

But Hackitt – who chaired the independent review of building regulations and fire safety following the Grenfell Tower fire – said that she “would not” expect the recommendations to be enforced without government regulation. 

“I would not in all honesty expect a professional body for a group of engineers to own up to the need for you to be regulated by the government,” Hackitt said.

“For me, when I looked at the built environment sector, that was not an option. The system was very clearly broken. It was already broken. The [Grenfell Tower] disaster had happened to demonstrate that.”

Hackitt also called for sanctions to be put in place for civil engineers who “fail to meet their moral obligations”, following calls for competence reviews in the In Plain Sight review. 

Speaking exclusively to New Civil Engineer, she said: “You have to have some form of teeth in the system.

“I think part of what the professional body should be about is to have that sanctions system in place for people who have signed up to a code of conduct and then blatantly disregard it.”

She added: “One of the big challenges we all have is people who are practicing outside of their competence.

“For me, when people knowingly do that and a result they are not doing the job properly and cannot do the job properly because they have not got the knowledge or the skills, then that is something that really needs to be looked at.”

The ICE Council will formally consider adopting the recommendations presented in the In Plain Sight review on December 11.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Trevor Jessop

    All well and good to 'test' the ongoing competence of professional engineers but what about the thousands of those employed, particularly at high level, as engineers who are not professional qualified? Those that have not bothered to sit their professional review because not being qualified has not adversely affected their careers. Such further 'testing' could even put off those engineers that are seeking 'professional' qualifications! Although the numbers applying for professional review is steady, if not increasing, there are still too many not bothering because their employers do not require such status. ICE Council were to address this problem but I have not heard anything yet.

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  • All disasters are the result of a series of errors and misjudgements, each of which is not infrequent, but not in combination. Grendell was an example of unsuitable material, poor installation, failure to think out evacuation provision and advice, failure to think “ what if?”.
    The proposals for competence accreditation seem a step forward.

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