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Home Tradesman Insights Navigating Competence in Tradespeople: A Look at New Legislation, Standards, and Guidance

Navigating Competence in Tradespeople: A Look at New Legislation, Standards, and Guidance

Demonstrating competence is crucial for tradespeople today. Clients want proof that you have the necessary skills, training and experience to complete work properly and safely. If you hire workers or contractors, you’ll also need to meet certain legal guidelines when it comes to assessing their competence.

There are various well-established ways tradespeople can demonstrate their competence, from gaining qualifications and certification to joining accredited professional bodies. It’s also important to be aware of upcoming legislative changes that will place even greater emphasis on competence requirements in future.

What is Competence?

Competence refers to the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours needed to perform tasks safely and properly. For tradespeople, it means having the necessary abilities to carry out work to the right standards while managing risks.

Clients, customers and stakeholders want reassurance that you know what you’re doing. Competence goes beyond just having qualifications – it’s about having the right blend of training, skills and track record.

There are two main competence focuses: doing the work properly, and doing the work safely. Both are equally important. You need expertise in your trade, and ability to control and mitigate any potential risks.

Why Competence Matters for Tradespeople

The Grenfell Tower tragedy highlighted how inconsistent approaches to competence can have devastating consequences. This led to proposals for a more comprehensive competence regime in construction in particular.

Other key reasons competence matters include:

  • Clients want proof you can deliver work to an acceptable standard
  • It’s central to managing health and safety risks
  • Some trades, membership organisations and accrediting bodies require specific competence certification

Construction is one example of a trade industry which is set to face major reforms relating to skills, training, and competency tracking of workers. Getting to grips with your obligations as a tradesperson or employer is essential.

Competence Requirements and Guidance for Employers

If you employ tradespeople or use contractors, you have a legal duty to ensure that everyone who works for you meets certain competence requirements.

Their level of competence needs to be appropriate for their role – for example, workers on a construction site would need a higher level of health and safety competence than retail employees.

Providing Training

You must ensure employees using work equipment get adequate training to use it safely, including on the risks involved. This builds on general health and safety obligations.

Regulation 9 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) states that:

“Every employer shall ensure that all persons who use work equipment have received adequate training for purposes of health and safety, including training in the methods which may be adopted when using the work equipment, any risks which such use may entail and precautions to be taken.”

For high-risk work like chainsaw use, more formal training and certification may be required.

Risk Assessment

When assessing risk under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, you must consider the competence of employees and what supervision, information and training this indicates is necessary.

You can’t simply assume competence – you must take reasonable steps to confirm it.

Appointing a Competent Person

Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations says that:

“Every employer shall appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions.”

They need sufficient skills, experience and knowledge to properly manage health and safety risks.

Selecting Suitable Contractors

If your business uses contractors, you have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure that they can do the job safely. This means you’ll need to thoroughly assess their competence in the task(s) you’re hiring them to do.

For example, what qualifications, skills and experience do they have for this type of work? What is their health and safety record? Can they provide risk assessments from previous jobs? If they use subcontractors, how do they ensure they are also competent? You should also make sure they have suitable insurance, such as Employer’s Liability Insurance if required.

Record Keeping

You also have a responsibility to keep records of all training provided, qualifications gained, and competence assessments. These will provide vital evidence if ever required.

Staying legally compliant with competence requirements is vital for employers. But even if you’re a sole trader, it’s worth following these guidelines anyway, for the benefit of both yourself and your clients.

New Competence Legislation in Construction

Recently, there have been some developments regarding competence legislation in the construction industry.

The New Building Safety Act (2022) provides an important legal framework for competence requirements. It refers to the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours expected of individuals working in construction, and the capability organisations must have to comply with building regulations.

Following the Act, the government plans to implement changes to building regulations, including a new regime for higher-risk buildings. These new regulations, coming into force in October 2023, will place a stronger emphasis on dutyholders (i.e. designers, contractors and clients) to ensure that those appointed are fully competent to undertake the work.

How You Can Demonstrate Your Competence as a Tradesperson

As a tradesperson, there are various options open to you for showcasing your competence to prospective clients, customers and employers:

  • Get qualified – Complete formal qualifications like vocational certificates, diplomas, NVQs or apprenticeships in your trade.
  • Get licensed – Relevant schemes like CSCS, Gas Safe or NICEIC allow you to register your qualifications, training and experience to prove competence. Licensing is a requirement for some trades, such as gas engineers.
  • Gain membership – Join industry bodies, trade associations or professional institutes related to your work. These bodies often have strict codes of practice which members must follow.
  • Join a competent person scheme – this will allow you to self-certify certain types of building work rather than seeking building regulations approval.
  • Showcase continuing development – Undertaking regular training and CPD demonstrates your commitment to your work.
  • Get client endorsements – Testimonials, portfolios and case studies from satisfied clients you’ve worked for can add to your credibility.

And of course, comprehensive tradesman insurance is vital. Not only will this help to demonstrate your competence, but it can also help protect you financially in the event of an incident or claim against you.

Tradesman Talk

How do you make sure you stay up-to-date with competence requirements? What impact do you think the new competence legislation will have on the construction industry?

Share your views and experiences in the comments section, and remember to share this post if you found it helpful.

Until next time, make sure it’s Tradesman Saver.

Darragh Timlin

With over 25 years’ experience, Darragh is an expert in all things insurance. Starting his career in commercial property underwriting, Darragh has worked for a number of global insurers and is now Managing Director of Tradesman Saver, part of the wider Henry Seymour Group.

All articles by Darragh Timlin

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