Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower that killed 71 people, the existing fire safety legislation of the Regulatory Reform Order 2005 has rightly come under close scrutiny
Former head of the Health and Safety Executive Judith Hackitt was commissioned by the Government to conduct an independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety taking into account submissions from a wide range of bodies including the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Institute of Safety and Health (IOSH)London Fire Brigade (LFB)and British Safety Council(BSC).The work of the review is in two phases and an interim report has recently been publish with the final report due in 2018.
In the forward to the report Ms Hackitt comments,
”As the review has progressed, it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so”, and further that
“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”.
However also cautions that “Changes to the regulatory regime will help, button 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.
Phase two of this review will focus on defining a revised regulatory system which will be simpler, clearer to all involved and deliver better overall outcomes. It will be important for this revised system to continue to allow innovation in building design and construction and not introduce disproportionate delays or cost into building processes. Any additional time spent at the front end of designing and specifying a building is likely to yield significant benefits in time, cost and safety in construction and throughout the building’s life cycle.
The revised system must be risk-based and proportionate and therefore not burden low-risk, small-scale or simple projects with requirements which are intended for complex and high-risk buildings where both the risk and consequences of catastrophic events are intrinsically considerably higher.
Change is clearly required but to create a new regulatory framework that delivers the above objectives is likely to be a complex process with no “ quick fixes” In the meantime fire safety must be managed as effectively as possible. Regardless of the legal complexities, the practicalities of fire safety remain and all those responsible are urged to review their own arrangements in light of the above reports.
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