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Human rights, as well as health and safety, are compromised by Grenfell-style combustible cladding

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman | British Safety Council

2 min read Partner content

The British Safety Council welcomed the challenge to the government that a failure to address the risk to life posed by flammable external cladding, similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower, is a breach of human rights. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG) outlining its concerns about the continued use of combustible cladding in existing buildings and advising the department of its responsibilities under human rights laws to protect lives.

The Commission has expressed its concern that the consultation on the use of external cladding omits any reference to the government’s duty to protect lives under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998.

The British Safety Council has participated in the consultation, calling for much tighter building controls, clearer guidance and effective enforcement, The EHRC intervention takes a wider view and supports our long-held and consistent argument that health and safety is a crucial underpinning of the human right to life.

The British Safety Council vision of no-one being injured or made ill by their work will only be realised when everyone cooperates to defend this basic human right for all. We call on the government to take a much clearer lead and responsibility for past failures to protect life so tragically highlighted by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Human rights came into sharp focus during the second world war, and the UK was influential in the drafting of the European Charter. Long associated with the defence of the vulnerable against improperly exercised authority, they were also applied to health and safety and the roles of landlords, employers, councils, agencies and governments.

Despite the increasing complexity of the modern world, there are innumerable examples of safe and healthy workplaces, public spaces and residences - failing to build and maintain that safety is not an ‘accident’ but the result of a sequence of decisions, actions and inactions that have not placed ‘the right to life’ at their heart.

At the British Safety Council, we aren't harbingers of doom or apologists for preventing people going about their normal lives at work, rest and play. We just insist that decent health and safety standards enable us all to do so without, for the most part, coming to harm. 

Good health and safety enables you to do whatever you wish – from climbing mountains to sleeping safely in your bed in a tower block, without a catastrophe destroying your human right to life.

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