Jon Vanstone, chair at Certass Trade Association, says up until now too much focus has been placed on poor work by “supposedly leading businesses”, damaging the reputation of our industry. But, with regulatory changes on the way, he says ‘time is up’ for those that give the rest of the industry a bad name…
With the commencement of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s Interim Industry Competence Committee and continuation of the review of MTCs for those registering work through competent person schemes, we know industry is heading into a period of regulatory changes and tightening.
Many will say now is not the time, but the existing structure does not create enough good work on-site and particularly in the glazing industry. Whether it be in domestic properties or on home building sites, generally the return to site rate for fitters is far too high.
There have been several arguments over recent years concerning the value of qualifications, and although I believe in their position as regards to learning, they are not all that we need to be assured of competent work. This is proven by those who hold certain qualifications yet seem to be short on required knowledge both technical and regulatory.
No longer can construction rely on a simple piece of paper or a card that is gained purely through holding a qualification or doing some Health & Safety site training.
There is a concern that ‘over regulation’ can lead to good firms working outside the rules, however those who do so and rely on such practises as indemnity insurances are excluded from many of the opportunities that the rule players can and will be eligible for.
No new Government scheme to fund work in the industry will do anything but require proof of competence and no home building or major construction site will accept a lack of evidence of ability to undertake work. The requirements are being updated to ensure such installers can do the work properly, with many holders of large contracts talking about the need to focus on ability over the current market baseline of lowest price.
We know that local authorities wish to increase enforcement and related penalties, and the HSE will certainly demand much greater scrutiny with the advent of the Building Safety Regulator, currently in shadow form, which can and will undoubtedly impact all areas of industry.
In the domestic market, we need large associations to stop hiding poor performers under slogans that promote quality to homeowners when they know it is not the case. Only by reviewing the competence of an individual on site and combining that with a review of the business can you start to develop the industry to a new level.
We need to gather the evidence of our performance at a business and association level, so we can easily recognise those who are good and separate them from those who need to improve.
The frameworks that work for a large business do not do justice for an SME and Certass has shown its benefit in this space as it focuses only on the local tradespeople who are facing an industry designed by the big-boys for the big-boys and the way they operate.
Certass installers have been operating to a slightly different model than others and it is good to see that the greater insight we have demanded for some time will need to become the norm, as regards compliance checking.
The value of the MTC has been questioned publicly in our sector due to how poorly some have operated the requirement and more and more installers have expired MTCs which does no good for our sector. Closer monitoring of our work needs to be done, whether the installer is present or not. Without traceability we cannot help those who are struggling to deliver better work.
This whole scenario when combined with numerous poor products in the market and rising prices, will potentially lead us to a wall with the consumer, as often there are reactions to such poorly managed growth booms.
Put simply, we need to step-up and stop focussing on those who do not work to the rules, as the consumers that trade with such people are only accepting a short-term gain for a long-term much bigger problem and there will be no backstop to support them.
Comms is critical when getting consumers, home builders and large contractors to hire the right people. And there is a real focus from Government to ensure that the message is heard.
If our regulated industry performed better, it would be much easier to persuade consumer groups and media to highlight our positives. However, too much focus is on poor work by supposedly leading businesses and our industry has a large question mark over it because of this. Time for them is up.