Safety and culture change in the construction industry

25 July 2019

The Industry Safety Steering Group ("ISSG") for building safety - chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt - recently reported on its findings on the "progress of culture change in the construction sector".  The ISSG is itself a key part of the government's response to the Hackitt review of building regulations and fire safety.

The short but wide-ranging report looks at competence, industry leadership, culture change, products and procurement.  It highlights a number of interesting contrasts, for example the difference between the "comprehensive safety culture" of firms working on big infrastructure projects compared to those working in the residential market, where the report considers that more should be done to promote safety.

The report concludes that some encouraging progress has been made in terms of the fundamental cultural changes that the ISSG thinks are required in relation to building safety.  However, the report warns that a lack of leadership and collaboration has led to inconsistencies in the industry's approach.  It is also critical of organisations that remain unwilling to share best practice.  The ISSG wants to use the government's formal consultation process on the new regulatory framework to "agitate and mobilise" complacent sectors of the industry.

The rallying cry of the report is that standards must be raised across the construction industry - and that it can learn from other sectors, including oil and gas, civil aviation, nuclear and chemical, which have undergone significant structural changes to improve safety.

The ISSG will continue to engage with organisations across the industry for the next year at least - addressing topics such as industry qualifications and new duty-holder roles and responsibilities.  

Ultimately, the ISSG considers that its work will only be complete when the industry has taken full responsibility for filling the gaps in its safety systems and processes.

It has been clear to us throughout the year that whilst some parts of industry are willing to make changes, there has been a strong sense of “wait and see” regarding Government’s commitment to lead the way with robust regulatory change - Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the ISSG