Building a risk-based regulatory environment

The implementation of Western Australia’s new building laws was the first step towards moving our state towards a risk-based system of building regulation. Building Commissioner Peter Gow says the changes are freeing builders from unnecessary red tape.

Building standards, the registration and licensing of competent people, the building approval process, insurance requirements, inspections and audits – these are all examples of regulatory controls that exist to manage the risk to the community and consumers from buildings and the building process.

As the state’s building industry regulator, the challenge for the Building Commission is to set appropriate controls without imposing unnecessary costs and red tape.

To achieve this, the Building Commission is moving away from an uncoordinated and often risk-averse approach to building regulation towards an integrated, risk-based system.

A risk-based system identifies where the risks are, the likelihood of the risks and the consequences should a failure occur. Controls are then focused on the high-risk areas.

“At the minor end of the risk rating scale would be a kitchen renovation, which is unlikely to impact on the structural soundness of a house or cause death or injury,” Building Commissioner Peter Gow said.

“At the extreme end would be a major sports stadium which, in the event of a fire or structural failure due to poor design, workmanship or unsuitable materials, could result in the death or injury of thousands of people.”’

The implementation of our state’s new building laws was the first step towards risk-based regulation and the Commissioner says this has already reduced red tape significantly in some areas.

“For example, the Building Act exempts buildings that are incidental to mining and processing facilities and infrastructure from the need for building permits because the risks from these facilities are effectively managed through other processes,” Mr Gow said.

Enhancements to the registration system under the Building Services (Registration) Act, including more comprehensive checks in the renewals process and a structured audit program, are also products of this more focused approach.

“Confirming that people still meet registration requirements on re-registration and auditing their work to demonstrate compliance lets us place more trust in registered people and reduce oversight in other areas of the building process,” Mr Gow said.

“Where audits show poor work and non-compliance the Commission can take disciplinary action when it is warranted.”
By progressively aligning its set of building controls and eliminating unnecessary duplication the Commission hopes to continue cutting red tape.

These principles are being applied to home indemnity insurance, where a new system underwritten by the State Government, rather than private insurers, can remove duplication in financial and turnover checks and align the requirement to provide insurance with the risk of catastrophic financial loss for home buyers.

But Mr Gow said builders will need to do their bit to keep red tape at a minimum.

“Builders need to do the right thing,” Mr Gow said. “This will eliminate the need for further controls and allow for maximum flexibility under the new laws.”


Building and Energy
Department News
15 Apr 2014

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