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Call to end safety deregulation after Grenfell Tower blaze garners wide support

More than 70 organisations and individuals have signed an open letter to the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her halt safety and health deregulation in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Lawrence Waterman

Before the letter was sent to 10 Downing Street on 21 June the total number of signatories was 70, including the initial sponsoring organisations: Park Health and Safety, IOSH, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the British Safety Council. 

They were joined by 66 more leading safety bodies and practitioners, such as the Association for Project Safety, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Civil Engineering Contractors Association, International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health, Trades Union Congress and Unite the Union. The number has since risen to ten times that number and signatories include former health and safety minister Lord McKenzie of Luton and Dr Joanna Wilde, director of the Council for Work and Health. 

The letter calls for a shift in the government’s approach to safety and health regulation and fire risk management: “Arbitrary rules were imposed to establish deregulation of health and safety, such as a requirement to abolish two health and safety regulations (and more recently, three) for any new one adopted,” it says.

“This mind-set has meant that, even when it was recommended and accepted that mandatory fitting of sprinklers would make homes or schools safer, this was rejected in favour of non-regulatory action. In practice, this approach favours inaction.

“At this crucial time of national reflection and sorrow, we urge all politicians to re-emphasise the need for effective health and safety regulation and competent fire risk management. These are fundamental to saving lives and sustaining our communities.”

It also urges the UK government to complete its review of part B of the Building Regulations 2010, which cover fire safety within and around buildings in England, as a matter of urgency and to include a focus on improved safety in the forthcoming parliament. 

The letter was first proposed by Lawrence Waterman, managing partner of Park Health and Safety Partnership, former head of safety at the 2012 London Olympics, and IOSH Magazine columnist. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 23 June, Waterman said the policy of scrapping three regulations for every new one enacted reflected “this atmosphere that health and safety is always about red tape. We never talk about white tape or gold tape and the way in which good health and safety enables good business. 

“We have this approach that part B of the Building Regulations is not going to be updated and this has happened for years [despite] advice from the all-party Fire Safety and Rescue Group,” said Waterman. “So it’s the overall atmosphere that we are questioning.” 

Read the full letter here.

 

Keeley Downey is acting deputy editor of IOSH Magazine. She is a former editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine

Comments

  • Just think that fitting fire

    Permalink Submitted by Keith Syers on 26 June 2017 - 08:11 pm

    Just think that fitting fire safety systems would COST less than rebuilding and re-housing people plus fines, court costs. Sprinklers do work it's part of building regulations in the USA

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  • Well done to those who have

    Permalink Submitted by Liz Bennett on 28 June 2017 - 04:28 pm

    Well done to those who have challenged the status quo but has the letter sent to the PM also jumped to quickly to a perceived answer? For a start the spinkler issue is not H&S law but would be part of a Building Regs requirement or an advisory note to industry that would develop into the "reasonably practicable" statutory duty.
    Why do I wonder what the right way forward is?
    1. Huge structures are built successfully all the time. Companies compete to win the opportunity to produce such assets. They are not required to go through checklists etc in technical and managerial standards except in H&S. Interestingly it is the technical and managerial performance that will effectively decide which projects succeed and which fair rather less well. I cite a well known example - the 2012 Olympics where no one died in the production of the venues and infrastructure or event management. A lot of work was done by many but in the event itself the diverse cultures, experience, expectations, organisations etc involved in coming together meant that business as usual was not a possibility. Success was still achieved.
    2. I would also like to point out that the fatality rate on small projects is far lower than on large projects. This is often the case where those involved have no knowledge of, interest in or belief in the relevance of regulations. SOmething else is happening here.

    Is the time right to step right back and ask what it is we want to achieve as a society and then look at how this may best be achieved?

    If we want to reduce the number of accidental deaths accross society we could simply stop all private driving. The cost here is too high for us to stomach and so we have an extreme situation where we accept a very high death toll in exchange for convenience.

    So is what we want to achieve a reduction in some deaths in some places? Why? Who has agreed at societal level this is our goal or are we just nudged into a belief this is what we want? If it is what we want should we be looking at more advanced theory to apply to more advanced working and living practices and technology?

    H&S penalties are ferocious these days. Are they managed as we wish? Do we want to criminalise indiividuals and organisation because they have not filled in a tick list or not gained a particular spurious qualification or created a document no-one else will read?

    If we do want all these things, fine, let's be clear about it. I think we do not. I think we want reeduced harm, less pain and suffering, less stress, less anxiety. More collaboration, more teamwork, healthier happier lives.

    I am not sure that simply adding more regulations will achieve that. In fact I would say that a simpler regulatory framework would bemuch better. This means a smaller number of rules both absolute and flexible. I absolutely agree that simply dealing with this by numbers is ridiculous but let's be careful and make sure we go to the heart of the problem, identify it and look at what would/could improve matters. Let's try a clean sheet and see what we develop as a more mature and engaged community of practice.

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