Gov't must set 'ambitious timeline' post-Hackitt review and allocate further resources
Whilst optimistic that government departments and regulatory bodies can work collaboratively and effectively, there are concerns over areas where resources are already stretched, says the British Safety Council.
On 14th June 2017, a catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington claimed the lives of 72 people and deprived hundreds of others of their homes and possessions. The impact was felt right across the world, and the Government committed to urgent action to ensure that such a terrible event would not occur again.
The subsequent Hackitt Review offers wide ranging recommendations, which the British Safety Council fully support in the main as part of improved preventive and protective fire safety control measures.
The British Safety Council considers that the Government must set an ambitious timeline for the second phase of work, which will extend to cover other multi-occupied residential buildings, including institutional buildings, and particularly those housing vulnerable individuals and to institutional buildings. Ultimately, the British Safety Council would like to see the proposed regime extended and applied proportionately and consistently across all types of buildings.
It is excellent news that a Joint Competent Authority will be established to oversee fire and building safety. However the British Safety Council do have concerns that this new forum will incorporate multiple regulatory bodies. Whilst we are optimistic that government departments and regulatory bodies can work collaboratively and effectively, we do have concerns in such areas were resources are already stretched.
A systems-based approach to building safety management must be considered at every point in a building’s life cycle, and not just during the construction phase. A collaborative approach across all stakeholder groups is considered essential.
The British Safety Council believe that everyone has fundamental right to be safe within their home and it is absolutely correct that residents should be at the very heart of the process which provides this assurance. It is considered that the issue of resident safety requires a culture change, in order to ensure stakeholders have an effective and participative role in building safety management. We would urge resources to be allocated in respect of this matter.
This process could be made a lot more effective and efficient with a centralised universal digital record for the entire life cycle of a building, acting as a single point of assured building related information. Accessibility and ease of use will be absolutely key in ensuring the system’s success. The system employed by Companies House is a good example of an effective and simple solution.
Competence is crucial in implementing an outcome-based safety model, and this model is already well established in workplace health and safety. It also promotes flexibility, proportionality and adaptability in regulatory frameworks. We do, however, have significant concerns about the effectiveness of ‘self certification’ schemes for building standards and urge consideration of appropriate regulatory oversight in this important area.
It is vitally important we take a holistic approach to ensure a catastrophic event such as the Grenfell fire never happens ever again. There must be cross-learning and knowledge sharing to ensure all duty holders are fully aware and proactive in their responsibilities, whilst working with residents and building occupiers.
It would be effective and sensible to adopt a model similar to the one in place for health and safety management, whereby regulations are set by government, approved codes of practice by the regulator and guidance by relevant stakeholders.
Australia, New Zealand and Norway operate high-level forums led at a ministerial level, comprising of senior representatives of stakeholder groups. It is vital to ensure lessons are learned from all major events globally, and the UK needs an ambitious, far-reaching and balanced regulatory system. The fire at Grenfell Tower was truly horrific. We must all do whatever we can to ensure that such a situation can never occur again.