HSE calls Building Safety Act ‘old measures in a new package’


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Neil Hope-Collins has called for the industry to embrace the new building safety laws that came into force in April and take advantage of the legal powers they give to specialist contractors.  

Hope Collins, a senior spokesperson for the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said it was: “absolutely shocking and hugely disappointing” that many firms had made no attempt to prepare for the new safety regime.

“It is old measures in a new package but the emphasis is on being able to properly demonstrate what you should already be doing,” said Hope-Collins, who has been an HM Inspector of Health & Safety for 22 years. 

“The duty holder roles are the same as in CDM, and the Golden Thread is not new information – it is what is ‘golden’ to you and what is needed to keep both the building and the people in it safe now and in the future”. 

He called the implications “massive” because the office of the new Building Safety Regulator created by the Act and managed by the HSE would impose a new safety culture on the whole of the built environment, but he did not envisage “a cliff edge” where the requirements would be enforced uniformly on every project.

He noted that whilst there are some new things in the competence frameworks, much of that is about being able to prove that people understand their role: “It also reflects the fact that in most cases responsibility lies with organisations…corporate bodies, so it is not just about training for skills. You must be able to demonstrate organisational competence.” 

He added that whilst there is a legal obligation on clients to ensure all works covered by the Building Regulations are properly planned, managed, and monitored, and that contractors are required to refuse to start work until “they are satisfied the client is aware of its own duties”. 

Graeme Fox, technical director of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), said these measures “can’t come fast enough” and would be welcomed by most building services contractors who had grown frustrated by the failure of people to act on their concerns. 

“At Grenfell people working on the refurbishment chose not to flag up problems they saw, and which led to the disaster. That came out clearly during the public inquiry,” said Fox at the CIBSE’s Build2Perform conference and exhibition where Hope-Collins made his comments.

“We have come across this scenario repeatedly. It is particularly glaring around fire damper inspections where failures have been discovered but the information not passed on to avoid upsetting the client or incurring extra costs.

“The Act means contractors are legally bound to report problems and the client must be able to demonstrate how they acted on that information. This is long overdue.” 

Hope-Collins added that secondary legislation was being prepared that would create the framework for Mandatory Occurrence Reports (MORs) that contractors can use to highlight issues that could lead to a serious incident in the future. Clients will have to demonstrate how they acted on the information in these reports. 

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