Hackitt calls for gas industry to "take the blinkers off"

Dame Judith Hackitt has called on the gas industry to learn the mistakes of other sectors and 'take the blinkers off' by embracing a systemic and inter-disciplinary approach to building safety.

Speaking at IGEM's annual Sir Denis Rooke Memorial Lecture, the former Chair of the Health and Safety Executive explained how her experiences in various industrial sectors have convinced her of the need for all engineers, including gas engineers, to learn from other industries. This will enable us to escape the cycle of tragedy-induced shock and review, and subsequent forgetting of the lessons learnt which inevitably leads to other lapses in safety processes. Dame Judith spoke convincingly of the need to apply the lessons of The Hackitt Review (commissioned in response to the Grenfell Tragedy to look at fire safety and building regulations in high rise and complex buildings) across all engineering sectors. The findings of the review, published in May 2018, highlighted many systemic failures in Building Regulations, including:

    • Insufficient enforcement and minimal penalties
    • A "race to the bottom" industry culture that undermines safety
    • Numerous conflicts of interest that impedes effective regulation
    • "Siloed" regulatory guidance that fails to view buildings as complex systems
    • Ignoring concerns of experts, such as Fire and Rescue Services
    • Poor record keeping and the inability to trace building materials

    Despite the review's focus on construction, Dame Judith stressed the need for all sectors to learn from these failures, and encouraged IGEM members to make a greater effort to seek expertise from outside the gas industry when reviewing their own safety regulations and processes. The Hackitt Review made 53 recommendations to policymakers, and the lecture drew particular attention to three core themes:

    1. Regulations must be outcomes-based, rather than prescriptive, and enforced by a single regulator with access to punitive sanctions.
    1. The construction industry's culture must change away from 'box ticking' and self-assessment of safety, and instead embrace an inter-disciplinary approach that learns from other sectors before other tragedies occur.
    1. Policymakers should take a whole-system based approach to regulation, rather than causing unnecessary siloes.

    The annual Sir Denis Rooke Memorial Lecture was hosted by the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) on the 20th March, and is available on demand until the 30th April on IGEM's website. Policy Connect would like to thank IGEM for their kind invitation for Carbon Monoxide Safety Policy staff to hear from Dame Judith there.