• International Workplace
  • 5 June 2018

Government commits to major building safety reforms

The government has welcomed Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and has made a series of commitments to make sure people living in high-rise buildings are safe.

The government has committed to:

  • launching a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings;
  • banning desktop studies if the current consultation does not demonstrate that they can be safely used;
  • ensuring residents have a better mechanism for blowing the whistle on landlords who do not maintain safe buildings;
  • changing the law to achieve meaningful and lasting reform of the building regulatory system, with strong sanctions for those who fail to comply;
  • inviting views to inform how the government could implement major reform of the regulatory system; and
  • restructuring building regulations fire safety guidance to ensure it is clear.

This is in addition to the £400m of funding announced by the Prime Minister to fully fund local authorities and housing associations with the removal and replacement of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, the type used on Grenfell Tower, on social housing buildings above 18 metres.

Secretary of State for Housing, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said:

“It has been deeply moving to hear directly from the Grenfell Tower survivors and community in my first few weeks as Secretary of State.

“This was a terrible tragedy that should never have happened. I welcome Dame Judith Hackitt’s comprehensive report and her calls for fundamental reform in the building sector. I am committed to making that happen as quickly as possible.

“The cladding believed to be on Grenfell Tower was unlawful under existing building regulations. It should not have been used.

“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.”

Read the Secretary of State’s statement to Parliament on the Hackitt review.

The government is already acting on Dame Judith’s interim recommendations by consulting on restricting or banning the use of ‘desktop studies’ as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s review was commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and has concluded that significant systemic reform is needed, spanning every aspect of the ‘life’ of a high-rise building – from design to construction to ownership and ongoing management.

The review has found that regulations and guidance are misunderstood, and oversight and enforcement are inadequate. The recommendations set out a new regulatory system. Dame Judith says a collaborative approach is crucial, bringing together government, industry and the community.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has urged the UK government to act swiftly to implement the recommendations made in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review.

Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, said:

“We urge the Government to develop an implementation plan as soon as possible. This must be made publicly available and regular updates should be provided. The recommended development of a single enforcement agency (the new Joint Competent Authority) should be part of this. The importance of effective enforcement cannot be overstated. It will help drive up standards, naming persons responsible so they understand that they are accountable.

“The Review’s recommendation of a new regulatory framework proposes stronger oversight of duty holders so they’re clear about, and they meet, required standards. If this does not happen, sanctions should be imposed, but in today’s report there is no indication as to what these may be.

“We suggest, in the interests of providing greater deterrence to non-compliance, they could be linked to the Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences sentencing guidelines.

“Concerns have been raised about there being no outright ban on combustible cladding and the government have announced that they will consult on this. We need to see a culture change to ensure public confidence. We need to overcome the long-standing problem of pressure being put on designers and contractors to deliver in unrealistic timeframes, leading to cost- and corner-cutting.

“Fire safety must be ‘designed-in’ from the outset in all construction projects. This good practice will reduce costs further down the line. It is down to the government to effectively implement these recommendations. Lives are at stake.”