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January 4, 2018

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Hackitt interim report widely backed by fire industry

Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report prescribed a root-and-branch overhaul of construction regulations to strengthen fire safety in the built environment.

Approved Document B – the document setting out the regulations – encourages cost-cutting, said Hackitt, who argued that a “universal shift in culture” was also needed to rebuild trust with residents of high-rise buildings.

Set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 71 people in June 2017, the interim report highlighted several major shortcomings in regulation and other areas affecting fire safety that will shape the more detailed recommendations set out in the final report, scheduled for release some time in Spring 2018.

We’ve rounded up reactions from several associations and bodies involved in fire safety and the construction industry.

The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP)

“The report notes that ‘the integrity and efficacy of products and systems is highly dependent on correct installation by competent and knowledgeable persons.’”

The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) endorses the interim findings of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, which recommend a change in culture within the UK construction industry and significant reform of the UK fire safety regulatory system.

The interim report identifies a lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities throughout a building’s lifecycle – from design and construction to maintenance during occupation. It notes widespread deviation from what is originally designed to what is actually built and highlights inadequate means of assessing and ensuring adequate levels of competency throughout the process.

In addition, the report recognises the vital role of installers, noting that “the integrity and efficacy of products and systems is highly dependent on correct installation by competent and knowledgeable persons.”

The ASFP has long been campaigning for formal competency requirements for fire professionals, mandatory third-party certification of products and installers and a system that more clearly sets out the requirements and responsibilities at each stage of construction.

Fire Sector Federation

Chairman Paul Fuller

“The FSF has long expressed concern about the current system of regulation and enforcement”

The Fire Sector Federation welcomes the interim findings of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, particularly the recognition that the existing regulatory system is not fit for purpose.

The FSF has long expressed concern about the current system of fire safety regulation and enforcement and the clear need to define competency requirements for all professionals involved. We strongly support the call for clearly defined responsibility throughout a building’s lifecycle and for the establishment of formal accreditation and raised levels of competence for all those engaged in fire prevention within the built environment.

The FSF has been working to develop a broad competency framework and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to develop a robust and coherent system to ensure that a joined up system for qualification can be established.

President Brian Robinson

“There is a pressing need for a National Fire Safety Agency to address fragmentation and take into account input from all professionals involved in fire safety”

The FSF commends the important work undertaken by Dame Judith and her review team in so clearly identifying the failings within the system and fully endorses Dame Judith’s call for significant culture change across the industry.

However, we have concerns about how the wider fire and construction sectors can be brought together to implement the recommended change of approach and look forward to discussions at the forthcoming summit in January.

Significant coordination and clear leadership will be required to take forward the recommendations and ensure that the silos which exist across the industry are completely broken down.

The Federation believes there is a pressing need for a National Fire Safety Agency that can address fragmentation and take into account input from all the professionals involved in ensuring the fire safety of our built environment.

Such an Agency with wide representation from across the fire and construction sectors would fill the gap that so clearly exists at the national level for a single responsible authority to act as a centre of expertise and advice.

British Woodworking Federation

CEO Iain McIlwee

“The regulatory framework is only part of the jigsaw”

The British Woodworking Federation, whose members manufacture approaching three million fire doors in the UK each year, welcomed Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim recommendations on the regulatory structure, however, cautioned that the regulatory framework is only part of the jigsaw. The elephant in the room is still who is going to pay for these essential works.

Dame Judith urges building owners not to wait until the review is complete. However, as it stands vitally important work is being delayed due to financial considerations.

We are calling for the Treasury to make an allocation for long term and potentially life-critical works by creating a Building Safety Fund (similar to the Pension Protection Fund). This will offer a solution to the current predicament of Housing Associations and Local Authorities, providing them with a scheme to apply to for compensation to support replacement and repair cost.

The Fund would alleviate concerns from building managers and most importantly, tenants, while helping consolidate legal matters through a centrally controlled process. Although the cost of this may need to be born through insurance premiums, when we consider the true cost of Grenfell, it is not one that we can responsibly ignore.

Dame Hackitt has, through this report, made a phenomenal start in pulling all of the complex interrelations together and by defining the roles and responsibilities of duty holders, and competence of individuals, is ensuring people look beyond “their bit” and instead focus on how we deliver successful projects together.

We very much look forward to supporting Dame Judith and her team in the next stages and hope that in the meantime, the Chancellor will recognise that we need Treasury to act too to help clear the logjam.

Association of British Insurers (ABI)

Head of property Mark Shepherd

“More detailed work is required on provision of sprinklers, limiting use of combustible materials and developing more robust testing regimes”

A thorough review of building regulations was long overdue and it’s a tragedy that it took the devastating Grenfell Tower fire to focus attention on this issue. The ABI called for much greater clarity on the roles and responsibilities for all those involved in the fire safety of a building, and it is encouraging that today’s interim report has recognised the importance of this.

We welcome the initial findings that say the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose and that there is a need for the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address a range of shortcomings.

More detailed work is required in the next phase on the provision of sprinklers for high risk buildings, limiting the use of combustible materials in construction and developing more robust testing regimes to ensure improved fire safety standards are adhered to.

The ABI and its members will continue to support and work closely with the review team as they develop their more detailed final report.

Fire Safety in 2023 eBook

SHP's sister site, IFSEC Insider has released its annual Fire Safety Report for 2023, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry.

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