The drive to ensure quality in construction takes many forms. Let’s Talk Specification discusses the importance of Audit and Inspection and Building Control Regulations with Ken O’Sullivan, the head of Audit & Inspection at the BBA.
Q: What are the key responsibilities of the BBA and within the organisation can you explain your role in the audit and inspection division?
A: The BBA is committed to helping businesses and organisations supply the construction industry with high quality products, systems and installers. Our operation is made up of three key areas: Product Approval and Certification (PAC), BBA Test Services and Audit & Inspection (A&I).
Collectively, these business units cater for a product’s life; from development and manufacture to installation and continued post-installation monitoring. As the Business Unit Head for Audit and Inspection, my role is to maintain both the operational side and the integrity of the service we provide by making sure all A&I Inspection processes meet the requirements set out in the BBA’s post certification service policies. That means making sure we continue to work closely with manufacturers and building control regulations inspectors to maintain standards.
Q: Can you explain how the audit and inspection service works and what are the key benefits for clients?
A: The audit and inspection business unit comprises two main streams: Construction and Management Systems.
The construction side is heavily focussed on installations and installers through inspections. Most of these inspections are carried out on a daily basis and take place at end user sites. They can occur at various stages of the works being undertaken including Pre, during and post works.
On the management systems side there are two aspects. The first supports the product through initial and ongoing quality manufacturing assessments. The second focuses on the business process; through our ISO services (9001, 14001, 18001), we assist on the improvement of service levels, efficiency and risk management.
In both streams, the BBA offers business efficiency, branding and most importantly ongoing reassurance of the product or the installation, making sure standards are being met and kept.
Q: How important is the audit and inspection service you provide in terms of helping to maintain quality for the government and construction product owners?
A: The BBA is a recognised name of quality and integrity within the construction sector. As such, the organisation supports the government by being an independent voice within the construction sector; a voice that is heard via the BBA’s involvement with various government projects and committees. More specifically, the BBA provides surveillance for government endorsed Competent Persons and Trustmark. The latter is going through change to the Each Home Counts project, which again the BBA are involved, EHC is looking to heighten the standards even further to the end user. For the product manufacturers, the importance of an independent certificate demonstrates their commitment to quality, resulting in an improved relationship with their clients.
Q: What is the significance of UKAS accreditation and how does that make a difference to the service offering provided by BBA A&I?
A: Our UKAS accreditation is key to our impartial offering, commitment to operational integrity and public reassurance. It fortifies morale and helps create conformity in our approach to business and our clients. It also supports our credibility with the UK government; through UKAS the BBA can help in policy areas including better regulation, good governance and public confidence.
A 2016 survey provided interesting feedback:
93% of respondents agreed that accreditation creates confidence among customers and stakeholders, while 76% agreed that accreditation differentiates them from their competitors.
Considering recent industry events, a repeat survey would most likely result in higher percentages.
Q: How many inspections are carried out each year and what sectors are clients drawn from?
A: The BBA complete over 50,000 inspections or audits in a year. These inspections/audits can range from 10-minute desktop audits to on-site 1-hour (or less) inspections to multiple day on-site audits. The Audit and Inspection team cover many clients in varied sub sectors of the construction industry. Most notable sectors are Energy Suppliers, Insulation, Competent Person schemes on the construction side to cement, paint, adhesives and HAPAS (Highway products) on the management systems side.
Q: You work closely with other organisations. Can you explain who they are and how these partnerships work? How important is this close collaboration and is it something the wider industry should embrace?
A: In construction the BBA offers two types of schemes: the BBA Approved Installer Scheme and Client Managed schemes.
The BBA Approved Installer Scheme gives organisations or members of the public the opportunity to select a quality installer or tradesman for the works they wish to be undertaken.
In client managed schemes such as Trustmark, Federation of Master Builders, EON (to name a few), the BBA provides supporting audit and inspection services independent of its own operation. This demonstrates our willingness to be open and available for outside assessment and our commitment to learning from our clients. Collaboration and feedback is key in these relationships as the initial service is to help improve a client’s efficiency and reputation. However, the bigger picture provides important feedback into government and policy that will continue to raise construction standards for the end customer.
Q: How does A&I help the BBA provide independence and transparency if an inspection turns out to be lacking?
A: Every inspection or audit is reported on; some are a straight forward pass or fail while others may be more complex and involve improvements via non-conformance or complaints. In all instances, the BBA shares the non-conformance or failure with the client direct. The correction is noted and agreed follow-up checks are put in place. Further inspections or audits take place to prove the correction and ensure continuation of changes.
At all points the BBA will assess the client and make ultimate decisions on client certification/approval and will revoke this if improvement is not seen. The BBA offers the end user, through its complaints process, the opportunity to raise concerns with the certificated product or installation and will investigate and advise correction of the complaint. The BBA also encourages whistleblowing within the industry; any whistle-blower will be dealt with confidentially and action is taken following investigation. In many cases, the removal of the BBA certification or approval can affect the viability of a company.
Q: BBA A&I also provides QMS certifications for companies - why do companies need to have this when looking at growing their business?
A: The BBA presently offers ISO9001, 14001 and 18001 (transitioning to 45001). These ISO certificates are proof that a company is responsibly operating in line with industry best practice and management systems. ISO certification helps build credibility in the eyes of stakeholders, employees and ultimately the end user. Effective ISO implementation provides cost savings/consistency and improves corporate image – both essential advantages for any growing business.
Q: Post-product installation; how does BBA work with installers to maintain standards and is this done in partnership with other organisations?
A: Many of the services offered by the BBA are post installation. This not only incorporates technical installation checks but also allows for input from the final customer, the end user. By completing these inspections, the BBA provides valuable feedback to its installer clients, whether positive or negative, to learn from. The BBA partners with many organisations, the larger being Federation of Master Builders, energy companies (EON, British Gas) and Trustmark. Through regular contact, standards are discussed and monitored and market conditions assessed for future joint growth.
Q: Which companies does the BBA provide installer inspection support for and how has this evolved the BBA business model?
A: One of the main areas is insulation and the BBA supports varying sizes of installers including many known market names such as A&M, Miller Pattison, SERS and Inbuild. On the construction side, the BBA works with Buildasure, Trustmark and some independent manufacturers who want their product installation to maintain the standard and quality expected of them. Initially the installer base was around legislation or building control regulations such as the PAS scheme or ECO on the technical monitoring side for energy companies. In the last few years this base model has been changing to more corporate offerings similar to the Federation of Master Builders or large product manufacturers. Future growth will be seen through builders and local authorities, where BBA Approved Installers specified with BBA products will give proven quality and reassurance to specifiers and ultimately the end user.
Q: What are the key future challenges you see manufactures and installers facing that can be addressed now?
A: The market needs to take on board its commitment to quality and overall responsibility for the built/building environment. There needs to be a consistent feed of information and vision from planning, product selection, installation, handover as well as ongoing maintenance and upkeep of our buildings. There is a need to see more end user (employees in offices or home owners in houses) interaction and support as ultimately people want to inhabit high quality, safe and environmentally efficient buildings.
To find out more about how BBA improve building control regulations within the construction industry through their audit and inspection service please visit their website.