Hackitt: Don’t wait for regulations to raise the bar
Dame Judith Hackitt
Construction firms working on higher-risk residential buildings should not wait for the government to introduce new regulations before improving competences.
That was the message from Dame Judith Hackitt, who addressed attendees at a Local Government Association conference in London on Monday (30 September).
The conference met to discuss recommendations set out in Raising the Bar – the interim report from the Competency Steering Group (CSG), which is made up of 150 institutions and associations working across the built environment and fire safety sectors and was set up to tackle competency shortcomings following the independent Hackitt Review into Building Regulations and fire safety.
Hackitt told the audience of 130 people from across the built environment and fire sectors that the CSG’s work was “impressive” but that “changing the regulatory framework, which some of you are waiting for, is going to take time.”
She said: “My personal view is that the direction of travel is right, and progress on many of the aspects of implementing the recommendations [set out in her report Building a Safer Future] is encouraging. But we’re not moving fast enough to change any of it. So, what are we waiting for? Why is there still a sense of waiting to be told?
“More importantly still, I think you need to examine why you are doing this. You should be doing this because it’s the right thing to do. Not because the rules and legislation make you do it.”
Lasting cultural change
Dame Judith praised the work of the CSG and its working groups in bringing the industry along the journey towards improving competence. But she added: “There is more to do to turn this plan into real and lasting cultural change on the ground.”
In her speech, Dame Judith acknowledged that getting insurance for working on higher-risk residential buildings was problematic. She advised the CSG to consult widely with insurers to see if the measures being proposed would reassure them that the industry was raising its game.
Graham Watts, chair of the CSG, said: “This competence work will continue. We won’t rely on regulation to make it happen. We don’t need to wait to ask about the competence of people we’re appointing – we should be asking that now.”
Also speaking at the conference, Chandru Dissanayeke, Building Safety Programme Director at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, said that improving building safety was the most important work on the government agenda.
The Raising the Bar report is open for consultation until 31 October. Comments can be made here.