The British Woodworking Federation, whose members manufacture around three million fire doors in the UK each year, welcomes the recommendations of the highly anticipated Hackitt Review and urge Government to crack on with embracing these recommendations as soon as practicable.
A radical rethink in terms of tightening and clarifying regulation, enforcement, responsibility and control processes is long overdue. The report recognises the importance of Duty Holders, Competence, the need to align Construction Design and Management Regulations and establishing a Joint Competent Authority to manage and enforce. The proposals surrounding the exchange of information digitally too are fundamental to addressing the inadequacies in the handover process and the value engineering that often goes unnoticed.
We also welcome the guidance note issued yesterday by MHCLG that provided an emphatic endorsement that UKAS accredited third party certification of product and competence of installation and inspection is picked up as a priority – this is fundamental to safety reform. This is again mirrored by Dame Judith and we hope this means now that Government does intend to act fast. It is, however vital that we remember that this report is not the end, it is the beginning and we need the dots to be joined up and good guidance is embraced by robust regulation.
We do still have some reservations with the announcements from the Prime Minister yesterday. Whilst Government is finally grasping the fact that urgency is required, there still seems to be little recognition of the full scale of the problem. We know that cladding was a major reason the Grenfell fire turned from a potentially minor incident into a tragedy, but the cladding and external envelope is only part of the story. The condition of the fire doors and the specifically the performance of the Manse Masterdor fire doors have also been highlighted as a major concern and some more detailed advice has been issued, but, with our experience it is that this is just the tip of the iceberg – the question remains how do we set about and fund the fixing years of fire safety neglect?
Setting aside the issue of the Manse Masterdor fire doors, referenced, there remain a plethora of other challenges. For years, weak and fragmented legislation, combined with poor skills and control in construction and maintenance have undermined installation and failed to address inadequacies in inspection and maintenance regimes. We believe that there is a very deep-rooted problem and that many fire doors would struggle to halt the spread of major fire. It is now vitally important that we reset the clock!
Alongside a greater focus on fire safety and fire doors, a new financial mechanism is needed to enable local authorities, housing associations and others to access the funds required to upgrade safety recommendations that will emanate from the Risk Assessments that are being demanded. It is essential that we see the Treasury making an allocation for this too.
We are campaigning for the creation of a Building Safety Fund (similar to the Pension Protection Fund), which will offer a solution to the current predicament of Housing Associations and Local Authorities by providing them with a scheme to apply to for compensation to support these costs. The Fund would alleviate concerns while helping consolidate legal matters through a centrally controlled process. Although the cost of this may need to be born through insurance premiums, when we consider the true and ongoing cost of Grenfell, we cannot let it be ignored.
A copy of the full review, which will have a profound impact on building codes and culture is available here
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