Last week Dame Judith Hackitt published her recommendations to overhaul building regulations in a report commissioned by government in the wake of the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.
The British Safety Council approves of many of the recommendations, including: the establishment of a joint competent authority (JCA) to oversee fire and building safety; application of a systems-based approach to the safety of buildings throughout their whole lifecycle; and an outcomes-based approach rather than having government specify what materials and techniques can and cannot be used. It agrees with Hackitt that a ban on certain types of cladding for example, as many propose, is conceptually the wrong approach.
It said: “We believe that the regime change proposed in the Hackitt report is the right solution to address the systemic failures that allowed this cladding to be installed in the particular configuration at Grenfell. This would prevent yet unknown issues from becoming serious hazards in the future.”
However, it has concerns about Hackitt’s proposals for a new regulatory framework. “We are concerned about the practicalities of the proposed establishment of a joint competent authority (JCA) to oversee fire and building safety,” it said. “This would require collaborative working across three separate regulatory functions and three responsible government departments, particularly as resources are already stretched.
“We are also concerned about the proposed funding through a cost-recovery programme. There is a widespread feeling that the HSEs fee for intervention programme has significantly damaged relationships with duty holders and established a ‘parking ticket’ approach to regulation. We are also concerned that a chargeable regime could also introduce new non-regulatory burdens or ‘blue tape’.
Perhaps more significantly, it also fears that Hackitt’s proposals will leave too much responsibility in the hands of the construction industry, which numerous recent failings have shown it to be of dubious capability in this regards.
“We have significant concerns about the effectiveness of ‘self-certification’ schemes for building standards, and urge consideration of appropriate regulatory oversight in this important area,” the British Safety Council said. “We propose that the sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences should also be extended to cover fire and building safety.”