The construction industry’s response to the coronavirus crisis shows that it is capable of making the changes it must to improve building safety and quality, according to Dame Judith Hackitt.
The chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety commissioned by the government in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire said the sector had demonstrated it was “capable of massive change at pace” and had been able to dump old practices quickly “without compromising safety or quality”.
Dame Judith was the guest presenter on the latest Covid-19 update webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), where she reiterated her warning to the industry that “change is coming” and that the timetable for a new regulatory regime would not be derailed by the current crisis.
She urged everyone to emulate the methods used to deliver vital projects for the NHS and other essential services where “collaboration and co-operation replaced fragmentation and adversarial behaviour”.
However, Dame Judith added that there was still a widespread lack of leadership across the sector and too many people were waiting to be told what to do despite the fact that the new regulatory regime would be retrospective.
She told the webinar chaired by BESA chief executive David Frise that “some people have stood up to be counted and are doing the right thing, but not nearly enough… if you have continued building in the same old way you will be held accountable”.
The industry should be acting now to rebuild confidence with the financial and insurance markets, which she said were now alerted to poor practices that increase risk in construction projects. She added that the industry should also be seeking to regain the trust of the general public after the Grenfell Tower disaster as many people now felt unsafe in their own homes.
She said the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) would have improved resources to enforce compliance with regulations, which will give greater prominence to the competent person schemes developed by the industry.
BESA is currently enhancing its schemes in readiness for the new regulatory environment including the Competence Assessment Scheme (CAS) it uses to assess the technical and commercial professionalism of companies that apply for membership.