Building Safety: Construction Industry Must Do Better

‘MUST DO BETTER’ seems to be the overall verdict on the construction industry’s progress on building safety and culture change, according to the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG) chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt.

The ISSG’s fourth report on built environment culture change progress, published today, says the construction industry and broader actors in the system still need to do a lot more. It says industry needs to commit to building safety and to demonstrate that their commitment is driven by the right motivation.

Representatives from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) said, “It is now up to the whole built environment sector to embrace this challenge and ensure that all buildings are safe for those who live and work in them. These changes are not just for Higher-Risk Buildings (HRBs) and those who work on them, the changes are for everyone, and we all need to take that on board.”

In the report’s Foreword, the progress of the built environment sector is recognised but it says there is “a widespread tendency to further delay taking action on the basis that some are awaiting further detail to emerge in legislation”.


One of ISSG’s biggest concerns is that industry is not moving fast enough to put in place the necessary training and upskilling to meet the new building safety competency requirements.

It points to workforce training and upskilling to fill existing competence gaps and drive up quality.

The ISSG says it is for the industry itself to define the competences it needs to deliver work that is fit for purpose and this should not need to be prescribed by the regulator.

Cladding Installer Training

It points to the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) role in piloting a cladding installer training programme as an instance of industry taking responsibility for its training competence.

The report also highlights the case of Kingspan Insulation, which was prompted to withdraw its K15 boards by the new Office for Product Safety and Standards, part of the Building Safety Regulator. The boards were withdrawn when it was realised their fire safety performance had not been measured using the correct ongoing assessment testing system.

The ISSG also says it is disappointed that some developers are still designing high-rise buildings with a single staircase as a means of escape from fire. This is even though new regulations will mean the design is not compliant and unlikely to pass beyond Planning Gateway One.

Steps towards securing lower costs for Professional Indemnity insurance cover are highlighted, but progress is slow. The ISSG says there is a lot of confusion in the industry but it hopes a new model insurance clause might help to secure cover for lower risk and transparent construction activity.


Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK (CROSS) is upheld as an example of industry taking on responsibility for safe buildings, for itself. CROSS allows anonymous reporting of structural and fire safety issues, benefitting the culture of organisations and promoting safe practise.

Construction Leadership

The report also calls for greater construction industry leadership where “significant room for improvement” remains. It mentions RIBA’s belief that two staircases in high rise buildings should be standard and advocates this should be communicated by the organisation to its members, rather than waiting for it to be mandated in legislation. The report says, “we would expect them to show more leadership within the profession by setting standards for their own profession”.

The future work of the ISSG will focus on standards and accreditation. The ISSG says it is waiting for the end of the Grenfell Tower fire public inquiry and its recommendations. It adds that “many products are unregulated, we have standards which may well not be fit for purpose, and which are presumed to provide more assurance than is intended.”

Logical Approach

The report also points to ways other countries have found to reform built environment safety. It looked at systems in USA and Australia showing “it is possible to develop a logical approach to market driven mechanisms which could significantly accelerate the pace of rebuilding trust in the industry”.

The report ends with an admission the ISSG’s work is not over and lists several areas of focus for the future.

>> Read more about building safety in the news

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