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Hackitt's Grenfell review urges 'universal shift in culture'
18 December 2017
An interim review into the Grenfell Tower fire has found that the current regulatory system is "not fit for purpose" and opens the door to "shortcuts" that put lives at risk.
Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety, which was published on Monday 18th December, urged "a universal shift in culture" and said: "Change needs to start now."
The review warned that, although large-scale fires are rare and that many people involved at all stages of building construction and management "do the right thing and recognise their responsibilities", the system must be overhauled to prevent abuses that could lead to a repeat of the tragic fire in June, which cost 71 lives.
Dame Judith, an engineer and former chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), wrote: "From the very earliest stages of the process, the people we have spoken to have indicated that the current regulatory system falls short of what is required to be effective. While some have argued for specific short-term measures, most have recognised that the current overall system is not working effectively and needs to be overhauled.
"As the review has progressed, it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so."
She said she hoped to see changes that mirrored those in the oil and gas industry following 1988's Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea, which led to 167 deaths as the result of an explosion and subsequent fires.
The final report is expected in the spring, but Dame Judith used the interim review to demand a change to "the culture away from one of doing the minimum required for compliance, to one of taking ownership and responsibility for delivering a safe system throughout the life cycle of a building".
She said she had seen during her time with the HSE that a good regulatory framework, coupled with a change in attitude, had brought substantial change to the construction industry and that it had moved on from "simply accepting that construction is a dangerous sector to work in".
Dame Judith, currently chair of manufacturing trade body EEF, added: "The mindset of doing things as cheaply as possible and passing on responsibility for problems and shortcomings to others must stop. Everyone’s focus must be on doing the right things because it is their responsibility as part of a system which provides buildings that are safe and sustainable for those who will live in and use them for many decades."
The next phase of the review will consider practical recommendations, such as retro-fitting sprinklers to all high-rise buildings, and the "direction for change" across six broad areas: Regulation and guidance; roles and responsibilities; competence; process, compliance and enforcement; residents’ voice and raising concerns; and quality assurance and products.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the global body for health and safety professionals, said it was pleased to see its recommendations on the adequacy and clarity of relevant regulation and on competence requirements included in the interim review.
Shelley Frost, director of strategic development at IOSH, said: “In the consultation, we called for the consideration of mandatory accreditation of fire risk assessors for all high-rises, to ensure standards are as high as they can be.
“Part of this is having the right people making the right decisions – well-trained, competent personnel. With fire safety being a complex issue, systems should be clear, simple to understand and proportionate.
“Without adequate training, will someone know the importance of checking areas out of plain sight, such as above ceilings or in ducts? Will someone know to check if fire doors have been removed? Will someone know to check if renovation work has unintentionally compromised compartmentalisation?
“These are all key questions. It is vital that no stones are left unturned.”
Read the full report here.