Building industry needs cultural shift to prioritise safety, Grenfell probe says

A cultural shift is needed to ensure safety is prioritised over costs in the construction industry, a probe ordered after the Grenfell Tower fire has found.

Current building regulations are "not fit for purpose" and leave room for people to cut corners, Dame Judith Hackitt said in an interim report from her review.

The former health and safety chief has been assessing the adequacy of the guidelines in the wake of the disaster, which raised fears that unclear industry standards had allowed dangerous material to be installed on towers.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry attended the Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service at St Paul's Cathedral (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry attended the Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service at St Paul's Cathedral (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She said she was "shocked" by how some residential properties were built and maintained.

Chief among the concerns highlighted by the report are that the regulations can be confusing and the building profession suffers from competence issues.

Dame Judith wrote in the report's introduction: "There is plenty of good practice but it is not difficult to see how those who are inclined to take shortcuts can do so.

"Change control and quality assurance are poor throughout the process.

"What is initially designed is not what is being built, and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking.

"I have been shocked by some of the practices I have heard about and I am convinced of the need for a new intelligent system of regulation and enforcement for high-rise and complex buildings which will encourage everyone to do the right thing and will hold to account those who try to cut corners."

A silent walk to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire marked the six month anniversary (Yui Mok/PA)
A silent walk to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire marked the six month anniversary (Yui Mok/PA)

It is suspected that pressure to drive down the price of refurbishing Grenfell Tower led to cheaper, flammable material being installed on its exterior.

Seventy-one people died when a fire tore through the west London block on June 14, while a subsequent safety operation identified hundreds more buildings with similar cladding systems.

Dame Judith cited industry changes made to improve the safety of the workforce as one example of how effective change in construction could be achieved.

It is suspected that pressure to drive down the price of refurbishing Grenfell Tower led to cheaper, flammable material being installed on its exterior (PA)
It is suspected that pressure to drive down the price of refurbishing Grenfell Tower led to cheaper, flammable material being installed on its exterior (PA)

She wrote: "A cultural and behavioural change of similar magnitude is now required across the whole sector to deliver an effective system that ensures complex buildings are built and maintained so that they are safe for people to live in for many years after the original construction.

"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.

"Changes to the regulatory regime will help, but on their own will not be sufficient unless we can change 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."

A full report is expected to follow in spring 2018, focusing on an overhaul of the regulatory system and the improvement of safety standards.

The review is one of several probes prompted by the blaze, which include Sir Martin Moore-Bick's public inquiry and a vast police investigation.

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