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How can the construction industry lead efforts to put building safety first?

By Amanda Long, Chief Executive of the Building a Safer Future Charter

In the built environment sector, the Grenfell Tower Disaster has put building safety at the top of everyone’s agenda. From a moral, social and economic perspective it’s now imperative that we embed enduring values, attitudes and ethical behaviours at the heart of all we do.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent inquiry into building regulations and fire safety clearly identified failure of leadership and culture as key underlying causes of the Grenfell Tower disaster. The ‘Building a Safer Future Charter’ was initiated in response by a group of early adopters including contractors, housing associations and local authorities supported by Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government with a vision of having an industry committed to putting people’s safety first.

Responding to the challenge: a charter for putting building safety first The Building a Safer Future (BSF) Charter has been created to promote an urgent and positive culture and behaviour change in the safety of the built environment. There is an urgent need to put people’s safety first in how we plan for, design, build, maintain, and look after the safety of the buildings we live, work or play in and protect those that use them. The Building a Safer Future Charter consists of five commitments that demonstrate commitment to protecting life by putting safety first, ahead of all other building priorities.

It was initiated by the Early Adopters Group as a first step towards spearheading the cultural and behavioural changes required across the industry to achieve a safer building system and has already gained over 220 registered signatories from across the built environment.

Robust benchmarking and independent verification

The BSF Charter has recently launched its ‘Charter Champion’ company initiative to help companies drive the systemic culture change required to put building safety first.

Through robust self-assessment, benchmarking and independent verification, the BSF Charter Champion company initiative will help companies identify potential issues and, in turn, develop continuous improvement plans to advance their overall approach and performance on leadership and culture in relation to building safety. Through their participation in this process companies will be able to identify ways in which they can help to reduce their risk profile in terms of building safety.

The launch of the Building a Safer Future Charter’s ‘Charter Champion’ status is an important step in driving forwards the systemic culture change in relation to major hazard safety that is required across the built-environment sector and through the entire value chain. As we progress on this critical journey we should be seeking to raise standards and build public trust across the industry.

Endorsed as a key driver for change

The BSF Charter has been highlighted by Dame Judith Hackitt and the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG) as a key mechanism for leading the culture change required for industry in their report for the Secretary of State and the Minister for Building Safety published in August 2020.

The benchmarking and verification framework has been supported and acknowledged as an important step towards the vital culture and leadership change needed to put building safety first by senior leaders across our industry including the Minister for Building Safety – Lord Greenhalgh, Chief

Inspector of Buildings at HSE – Peter Baker, Dame Judith Hackitt, and Co-Chair of CLC – Andy Mitchell.

Opportunity to demonstrate leadership

The first 13 companies, who are demonstrating real sectoral leadership, have signed up to begin the journey and engage in the robust benchmarking and independent assessment process.

The BSF Charter benchmarking and verification process is now open for participation from across the construction industry. All UK organisations involved in the built environment can proactively participate and demonstrate their commitment to building safety by becoming Registered Signatories to the Charter and, if appropriate, progress to undertaking the ‘Charter Champion’ benchmarking process. This is particularly the case for Duty Holders.

For more information about the Building a Safer Future Charter and how to get involved, visit https://buildingasaferfuture.org.uk/charter-champions-benchmarking-about/. Twitter: @BSFCharter LinkedIn: Building a Safer Future Charter

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