June 19, 2018

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Former HSE head questions Hackitt report

Geoffrey Podger, the former HSE Chief Executive today questioned Dame Judith Hackitt’s report into the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Speaking at Firex (June 19) Podger praised Hackitt’s identification of issues but wondered about its implementation process.

“I think no one should doubt what Dame Judith is trying to do and in terms of her diagnosis of what is wrong she pretty much got it right, he said, “but when all is said and done, is what she is proposing actually going to work?

He argued that Grenfell shared similarities with health and safety disasters given that it was foreseen, took place in an unsatisfactory regulatory framework and the current proposals to address the problem are still unclear.

“One of the things that worries me about Grenfell,” he suggested, “is that we persist in regarding it purely in the narrow perspective of fire prevention which is important but actually there are, in my view, a lot of lessons from wider regulation which would be useful now in working out what we’re actually going to do.”

He continued: “What this all boils down to is proportionality. How much does it cost? What’s it going to do? We have to decide what it is we want to regulate and what our priorities actually are.

He also queried Hackitt’s proposal of modelling regulation on the way that high-risk chemical plants are run, specifically the COMAH (Control of Major Hazard) regulation. “COMAH is actually a virtual agency, it does not exist in its own right. It simply exists of two groups of staff who are drawn from other agencies. Is this actually suitable for the problem we’re trying to solve here?”

Podger concluded his talk pessimisticically: “I’m afraid ultimately the report puts the cart before the horse and doesn’t put out a plan of where we need to go.”

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