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Fundamental reform is needed to improve building safety and to rebuild trust among residents of high-rise buildings, says Dame Judith Hackitt, the Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety after the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in west London, pictured.
She said: “This is a systemic problem. The current system is far too complex, it lacks clarity as to who is responsible for what, and there is inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement. Simply adding more prescription or making amendments to the current system, such as restricting or prohibiting certain practices, will not address the root causes. The recommendations in this report will lead to a clearer, simpler but more robust approach to the building and on going management of high rise residential buildings.”
The report recommends a less prescriptive, outcomes-based approach to the regulatory framework to be overseen by a new regulator; clearer roles and responsibilities through the design and construction process and during occupation, to ensure real accountability for building safety; residents to be consulted and involved in decisions affecting the safety of their home and listened to if they have concerns; a more rigorous and transparent product testing regime and a more responsible marketing regime; and industry to lead on strengthening competence of all those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.
The review heard ‘almost unanimous concern surrounding the ineffective operation of the current rules around the creation, maintenance and hand-over of building and fire safety information’. The interim report in December (that found the system of building and fire safety is not fit for purpose) identified the need for a ‘golden thread’ of information for all higher risk residential buildings (HRRBs), so that their original design intent is preserved and changes can be managed through a formal review process.
Louise Ward, Policy Standards and Communications Director at the British Safety Council, said: “The inquiry’s recommendations, drawn on the principles established under the Health and Safety at Work Act, are ambitious and far reaching; they set the right tone for a new regulatory system that will be fit for purpose in 21st century Britain. The government should extrapolate this robust, effective and proven regime to inform the developing theme of residents safety. We feel that the adoption of a risk-based goal-setting model is appropriate and will underpin proportionality and flexibility. We urge the government to set an ambitious timeline for a second phase of work, which should extend to other buildings.”
At the electrical trade body the ECA, Director of Technical, and Head of the Fire and Security Association (FSA), Steve Martin said: “ECA and FSA are pleased that the independent Hackitt Review broadly agreed with many of the recommendations we made during the consultation. We will continue to work closely with government and industry to achieve the broad aims of the Review, and to deliver a holistic approach to fire safety training and regulation.”
Andrew Eldred, Director of Employment and Skills for ECA, added: “It is important that the competence of those undertaking electrical installation is assured and verified. I am pleased to see ECS cards recognised as an industry exemplar in the report, and welcome the establishment of an industry-led JCA to strengthen the established competency framework.”
The report comes almost one year after the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 71 people and injured others. For the 159-page report in full visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-review-of-building-regulations-and-fire-safety-final-report.
The new Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire, paying tribute to the report in Parliament, said: “I will ensure there is no room for doubt over what materials can be used safely. Having listened carefully to concerns, I will consult on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings. We must ensure the tragedy at Grenfell brings change and I call on the industry to work with me to achieve the urgent reform needed.”