Construction blasted over slow building safety culture change

Aaron Morby 2 weeks ago

Dame Judith Hackitt has vented her frustration at the industry’s lack of leadership and slow progress towards bringing about a true cultural change in building safety following Grenfell.

In her third report as chair of the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG) assessing progress towards improving building safety, she accuses firms of hiding behind trade associations and preferring to wait for laws to dictate safer practices.

The report highlights examples of good practice like the Considerate Constructors Scheme establishing both the Building a Safer Future Charter and working with the Construction Products Association on the Code for Construction Product Information.

But it warns: “We still cannot report a critical mass or groundswell of action across industry to suggest there is significant momentum on culture change.”

In the face of poor uptake of the charter, the ISSG recommends sign-up should be a standard requirement in public sector procurement.

It also calls on local government and housing associations to consider how they are suitably testing and rewarding firms with a positive culture that prioritises building safety in the appointment process for construction projects.

“We still see an industry that, at best, is in compliance mode rather than a leadership mode,”says Hackitt.

“There continues to be an over-reliance on ‘the usual players’ to lead the way, while others wait to be told what to do.”

The third report expresses concern at the extent to which many businesses choose to “hide” behind trade and professional organisations rather than showing leadership directly.

Hackitt said: “We have also become aware that a number of these bodies are held back from leading in the way that we would hope to see by the reticence of some of their members.

“This has further galvanised our view that we need to see real leadership from within the industry itself to accelerate the pace of change.”

She warned: “It would be an unacceptable failure of industry if the culture, which only it can change from within, remained the same and it continued to be solely reliant on regulations or assessors to ‘catch them out’ or highlight grave errors, rather than embedding building safety as an essential and intrinsic part of the entire process.

“This will only ever foster a culture of low-level compliance rather than the innate safety-first mentality which is fundamental to rebuilding trust in the industry.

“The key message must be that we need to go further and we need to go faster, ahead of legislation.

“It is time to differentiate between those who are ready and willing to do the right thing and lead the way and those who continue to try and hide.”

Lord Greenhalgh, Minister for Building Safety and Fire, responded to the report committing the Government to look at ways to ensure that firms’ records are increasingly considered in decisions about how taxpayers’ money is spent.

He said: “Firms that lead the way in re-gaining public trust will benefit from doing so, while laggards will learn that it pays to do the right thing.”

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