7 min read
March 15, 2024

BSI Flex 8670: Behavioural Competence, Ethical Principles, and Conduct in Construction

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Priyan Majumdar
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In the construction industry, companies and clients encounter intense competition, tight deadlines, and cost pressures, often driven by contractual and procurement conditions. These pressures, if left unchecked, can lead to the development of practices that increase risks to workers and the public, as well as encourage unethical or undesirable behaviours. These issues can significantly impact building safety.

To counteract unsafe practices and promote safety, organisations need a strong safety culture based on effective behaviours. An organisation's safety culture is the result of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that influence an organisation's commitment, management style, and proficiency. Achieving the desired cultural change in the built environment industries requires integrating effective behavioural competence tailored to the roles, functions, tasks, and activities of individuals.

This article offers informative content on the fundamental requirements for behavioural competence and ethical standards recommended by the BSI Flex 8670 v3.0:2021-04 'Core criteria for building safety in competence framework'. These behavioural competences are intended to support the development of a positive safety culture throughout the supply chain and building lifecycle. The goal is to minimise the tolerance for poor conduct and risky behaviours and encourage their challenge.

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  • Ethical Principles, Standards and Conduct
    • Respect for Life, Law, the Environment, and the Public Good
    • Honesty and Integrity
    • Precision and Thoroughness
    • Accountability for Leadership, Behaviour, and Communication
  • Behavioural Competencies 
    • Leadership, Teamwork, and Communication
    • Individual and Organisational Competence
    • Individual Responsibility and Accountability
    • Duty of Care to Others, Including Building Occupants
  • Conclusion

Key aspects of a positive safety culture, as identified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), include:

  1. Management commitment that fosters a strong sense of concern throughout the organisation.
  2. Visible management that leads by example, demonstrates engagement, and takes action.
  3. Effective communication at all levels, where health and safety are natural, spontaneous considerations.
  4. Active participation and ownership of health and safety issues, with a shared interest and narrative at all levels of the organisation, including visitors.

When combined, these behavioural competences can help mitigate risks associated with poor practices and encourage positive behaviours.

Ethical Principles, Standards and Conduct

Ethics refers to the moral principles and standards that serve as the foundation for making sound judgements. They grant individuals the moral authority to take responsibility for their own actions and the actions of others. Ethics facilitate the making of complex decisions about what is right and wrong, while also helping to balance commercial considerations with broader societal and interpersonal responsibilities.

Ethical standards and principles play a critical role in guiding an individual's choices, especially when there is no clear guidance or regulations in place, or when one cannot rely solely on experience. Ethics encompass various branches, each of which may offer different solutions to a given problem. Nevertheless, ethics can help resolve confusion and provide clarity in situations where objectives are unclear, conflicting, or when the outcomes impact individuals with differing perspectives.


These principles provide criteria for determining what is morally right or wrong in the context of how the decisions and actions of individuals and organisations should shape daily life. These principles include:

Respect for Life, Law, the Environment, and the Public Good

Respect for life, the law, the environment, and the public good is essential in the construction industry. Everyone involved in various stages of building projects, from planning to demolition, has a responsibility to be aware of and adhere to relevant laws and regulations. They must also consider established standards and guidelines, as well as the broader public interest. This duty includes:

  • a) Prioritising the safety and well-being of others and promptly identifying potential hazards.

This involves not only ensuring one's own safety but also being vigilant in identifying potential hazards that could harm others. It means actively looking out for the safety and well-being of colleagues, workers, and the general public who may be affected by construction activities. This includes reporting and addressing safety concerns promptly to prevent accidents and injuries.

  • b) Ensuring that their actions are legal, ethical, and justified.

Individuals in the construction industry must conduct their activities in a manner that is not only legal but also ethical and justified. This entails adhering to laws and regulations while also considering the moral implications of their actions. It's about doing what is right and just in addition to what is legally required.

  • c) Acknowledging the significance of physical and digital security and safeguarding data.

In the modern construction industry, safeguarding not only physical assets but also digital information is crucial. Protecting data from cyber threats and unauthorised access is essential for maintaining the security and integrity of construction projects. It includes implementing robust cybersecurity measures to prevent data breaches and disruptions.

  • d) Respecting and safeguarding personal information and intellectual property.

Construction projects often involve sensitive information, including personal data and intellectual property. Respecting privacy and safeguarding this information is vital. This responsibility extends to ensuring that intellectual property rights are protected, and proprietary information is not misused or disclosed without authorisation.

  • e) Preserving and striving to enhance the quality of both man-made and natural surroundings.

Individuals in the construction industry should aim to preserve the quality of both man-made and natural surroundings. This entails designing and building structures that harmonise with the environment, minimising negative impacts, and implementing sustainable practices to enhance the quality of life for communities.

  • f) Maximising benefits to the public while minimising any potential negative impacts for current and future generations.

This point emphasises the importance of construction projects benefiting the public as a whole. This includes ensuring that projects provide value, improve living conditions, and have a positive impact on current and future generations.

  • g) Taking into account the limited availability of natural resources.

Recognising the finite nature of natural resources is crucial. This means using resources efficiently and sustainably in construction projects, minimising waste, and exploring alternative materials and methods that reduce the environmental footprint of construction activities.


Honesty and Integrity

Honesty and integrity are not only ethical principles but also essential elements for the success and sustainability of the building and construction industry. These values build trust, ensure safety, maintain quality, and uphold the reputation of professionals and organisations in the field. Upholding these standards benefits not only individual careers but also the broader community and the environment.

  1. Behaving in a dependable and fair manner and treating others with equality and respect.
  2. Being conscious of how their actions and behaviour may affect others and respecting the privacy, rights, and reputations of other parties and individuals.
  3. Maintaining confidentiality when required.
  4. Disclosing and appropriately managing conflicts of interest.
  5. Avoiding deceptive practices and taking action to prevent or report corrupt activities or professional misconduct.
  6. Rejecting bribery and any improper attempts to influence decisions.

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Precision and Thoroughness

Precision and thoroughness are essential principles that underpin the effective execution of tasks and responsibilities across the various aspects of the construction process. It entails that all individuals involved in various aspects of the construction process have a responsibility to acquire and utilise their knowledge, skills, and understanding effectively in their respective roles. This obligation encompasses:

  1. Exercising caution and diligence at all times.
  2. Limiting their involvement to areas where they possess expertise or working under competent supervision.
  3. Keeping their knowledge and skills current and relevant.
  4. Contributing to the development of knowledge and skills in others.
  5. Fairly and impartially presenting and assessing theories, evidence, and interpretations while respecting alternative viewpoints.
  6. Identifying, evaluating, quantifying, mitigating, and managing risks.
  7. Avoiding deliberate deception or permitting others to be misled.

Accountability for Leadership, Behaviour, and Communication

While technical expertise is undoubtedly essential, professionals in the construction industry are also entrusted with a broader responsibility that extends beyond their technical skills. This responsibility encompasses accountability for leadership, behaviour, and communication, which are vital elements in the construction industry's pursuit of excellence and societal progress. All participants in the construction process are obliged to adhere to and uphold elevated standards of personal behaviour, clear communication, and appropriate guidance, thereby setting a positive example for others. This responsibility involves:

  1. Recognising and effectively addressing the societal implications raised by the built environment.
  2. Communicating with clarity and transparency to prevent misunderstandings.
  3. Promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion and showing respect for differing perspectives.
  4. Promoting public awareness and understanding of the impacts and advantages of advancements in industry and learning.
  5. Delivering truthful and objective statements in both personal and professional capacities.
  6. Challenging statements or policies that raise personal or professional concerns.

Behavioural Competencies

Behavioural competencies encompass various aspects of building safety that extend beyond just workplace safety. These competencies involve recognising and acting upon longer-term responsibilities related to the safety of individuals who interact with a building throughout its lifespan.

Within the scope of PAS 8670, there are five essential sets of behaviours considered vital for demonstrating suitable behavioural competence:

  1. Ethical principles, standards, and conduct.
  2. Leadership, teamwork, and communication.
  3. Individual and organisational competence.
  4. Personal responsibility and accountability.
  5. Duty of care to others, including building occupants.


Leadership, Teamwork, and Communication

Ensuring safety in the built environment goes beyond just workplace safety. It involves considering the safety of everyone who interacts with a building throughout its life. This requires a change in behaviour, where individuals acknowledge and act upon their long-term responsibilities.

Senior management must demonstrate a strong commitment to prioritise building safety. Effective safety cultures within organisations depend on visible leadership at the top level, but it's equally essential to have safety leadership at every organisational level, including within teams and among individuals in positions of responsibility.

A safety culture also necessitates collaborative teamwork and management practices. People should be empowered to raise concerns, and there should be a culture that listens to and addresses these concerns in a safety-positive manner. Overall, effective communication is crucial within and between organisations to identify and manage safety risks.

Individual and Organisational Competence

To ensure safety, individuals must understand their personal and organisational capabilities, work within those boundaries, and be provided with adequate time and resources for building safety concerns. This may involve regular self-assessment or peer-supervised activities to identify areas for improvement. Ideally, these assessments lead to personal development plans and activities to maintain or enhance competence.

Fostering a learning culture that continuously monitors, analyses, and improves competence and safety outcomes is vital. This requires equipping individuals with the necessary competencies to make informed decisions, including understanding when and how to exercise authority, recognising and addressing concerns, analysing problems logically, identifying risks, making timely decisions even in uncertain situations, and knowing when to seek advice or resources for decision-making.

Individual Responsibility and Accountability

In essence, competent individuals must be aware of how their actions can impact others, including colleagues and the public, both immediately and in the long term. They should also understand what's required of them in terms of taking responsibility for these actions. This responsibility includes acknowledging the potential consequences of their actions on others and being accountable.

Competence assessments may entail candidates showcasing their personal responsibility by taking ownership of their actions and those of their subordinates, recognising their role in ensuring safety, having knowledge of applicable legal obligations, and effectively communicating the boundaries of their responsibilities to others. Essentially, it's about individuals being aware of the consequences of their actions and demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding the safety and well-being of others.


Duty of Care to Others, Including Building Occupants

In a positive safety culture, individuals with responsibilities for safety in the built environment recognise that buildings can pose risks to others throughout their lifecycle, including during occupation. It is crucial for individuals to acknowledge their duty of care to protect people's safety and act accordingly.

This involves ensuring competence in designing, constructing, maintaining, and managing buildings safely, understanding the importance of consulting and communicating effectively with clients, residents, and others affected by building projects.

It is also important to take into consideration the needs and safety of individuals from diverse backgrounds who will occupy or be affected by the building or its construction work, promoting inclusivity and safety for all. People come from various backgrounds, abilities, and needs, and a one-size-fits-all approach to safety may not suffice. It's essential to acknowledge these differences, tailor safety measures accordingly, and ensure that everyone, regardless of their unique characteristics, can access and benefit from a secure environment.

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In conclusion, the construction industry faces significant challenges and pressures that can lead to unsafe practices and unethical behaviours. To ensure building safety, it is imperative for organisations to foster a strong safety culture rooted in effective behavioural competence. This article has provided valuable insights into the fundamental requirements for behavioural competence, as recommended by PAS 8670, emphasising ethical principles, standards, and conduct as a cornerstone of building safety.

Incorporating these behavioural competencies throughout the supply chain and building lifecycle will not only mitigate risks associated with poor practices but also contribute to the overall safety and well-being of workers and the public. By adhering to these principles, the construction industry can build a safer, more ethical, and responsible future for all.