Following the Grenfell Inquiry, the UK Government committed to addressing concerns around building safety.
As part of that commitment, the Building Safety Bill is being considered in Parliament with Housing secretary Robert Jenrick describing the Bill as “a significant milestone on our journey to fundamentally improving building safety and delivering real change that will keep people safer in their homes”.
The framing of the Bill is similar to the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 in that specific dutyholders are given responsibility for safety and building regulations compliance during the design and construction phases of projects.
As the Bill progresses through Parliament, the UK Government has announced that a new UK regulator is being established with powers to remove products that present significant safety risk. The Government's update explains that the regulator will have powers to "prosecute any companies who flout the rules on product safety."
Details on the specific powers of investigation and enforcement are still to be confirmed (as well as its name) but it is clear that the intention is to more rigorously regulate the quality of materials used in construction projects, as well as the adequacy of testing systems in place.
We anticipate that the new regulator will work closely with established regulators like the Health & Safety Executive, UK police forces and UK trading standards bodies to (1) promote compliance and (2) to investigate suspected breaches.
Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, has said: "This is another really important step in delivering the new regulatory system for building safety. The evidence of poor practice and lack of enforcement in the past has been laid bare. As the industry itself starts to address its shortcomings I see a real opportunity to make great progress in conjunction with the national regulator."
It's clear from this statement that construction sector organisations will be under the spotlight and will be expected to demonstrate compliance with safety standards. The first step in that process for many organisations will be reviewing their supply chains to ensure the providers of materials meet requirements around quality.
Our Corporate Crime and Investigations team regularly conducts supply chain reviews for clients in the construction sector. Please get in touch if we can assist you.