August 5, 2020

BESA welcomes biggest shake up of building safety in four decades

The publication of a new government bill that promises the biggest shake up of building safety in 40 years has been welcomed by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

The draft Building Safety Bill includes a pledge to appoint the UK’s first national chief inspector of buildings before the end of this year and to distribute £1bn in new funding to remove unsafe cladding from at risk buildings.

BESA contributed to several consultations that helped to shape the Bill, which will enshrine in law the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent review of building safety held in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

It will include tighter regulation of all blocks of flats above 18m in height or over six storeys, which will be overseen by a new regulatory authority inside the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This will be led by the new chief inspector and will have full powers to hold building owners to account.  The legislation will also create new regulations for managing the safety of construction materials and products.

Dame Judith said the Bill was “an important milestone in delivering the fundamental reform this industry needs to make residents and buildings safer.”

However, she added that the industry should “be in no doubt that it is not enough to wait for the Bill to become law before they implement changes; we expect them to start taking action now.”

She said the industry was “now on notice that the race to the bottom, the fragmentation, the passing on of responsibility to others has to stop and a new culture must take over now.”

Regulator
BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox added that the Association had repeatedly pointed out that the sector should not be waiting for the end of the formal parliamentary process or the appointment of the new regulator.

“There are no surprises in the draft Bill,” he said. “When she addressed a BESA webinar a few weeks ago, Dame Judith said big changes were coming and that she expected the industry to be getting on with the business of reforming working practices to ensure the safety of building occupants was an absolute priority.

“We now have that ready to be enshrined in government legislation, which is something all competent and professional businesses should welcome wholeheartedly.”

Mr Fox also welcomed the provision in the bill that obliges clients to set up an online system where workers can report any potential safety issues they see on site that must then be passed on to the new regulator within three days.

“BESA members often report difficulties with being heard when they have raised concerns about instances of poor quality work they have witnessed on site,” he said. “This innovation should make it easier for everyone who is determined to see high standards upheld.”