Government establishes new Building Safety Regulator to ensure safety of construction materials
The government announced that it is establishing a national regulator to ensure homes are built from safe materials. The action follows from the Grenfell inquiry, which revealed that manufacturers frequently ignored safety rules and the industry has not got a coherent system to ensure end-to-end fire safety controls. The new Building Safety Regulator, operating independently, will review and examine faults in the system and recommend how safety failures can be prevented.
The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick recently announced that tenants would be covered by the creation of a national regulator that will ensure that the materials used to build homes are made safer (19 January 2021).
The construction materials regulator would have the power to ban from the market any product that poses a serious safety risk and prosecute any businesses that breach product safety laws.
This follows from witnesses to the Grenfell Inquiry that shed a light on several manufacturers of construction goods' deceptive practises, including intentional attempts to game the system and rig the safety test results.
When investigating complaints, the regulator would have broad regulatory powers, including the right to perform its own substance testing. In addition to checking products against quality requirements, businesses have to ensure that their products are safe before being marketed.
This marks the next significant chapter in the fundamental reform of regulatory frameworks by the government. Progress on regulatory reform includes the release of an ambitious draught Building Safety Bill, which marks the biggest regulatory reforms in 40 years, and a new shadow-shaped Building Safety Regulator that is already in place.
Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Housing Secretary, said: "The Grenfell Inquiry has heard deeply disturbing allegations of malpractice by some construction product manufacturers and their employees, and of the weaknesses of the present product testing regime.We are establishing a national regulator to address these concerns and a review into testing to ensure our national approach is fit for purpose. We will continue to listen to the evidence emerging in the Inquiry, and await the judge's ultimate recommendation - but it is already clear that action is required now and that is what we are doing."
Paul Scully, Business Minister and Minister for London, said: "We all remember the tragic scenes at Grenfell Tower, and the entirely justified anger which so many of us in London and throughout the UK continue to feel at the failings it exposed. This must never happen again, which is why we are launching a new national regulator for construction materials, informed by the expertise that already exists within the Office for Product Safety and Standards."
Dame Judith Hackitt, President of the Independent Review of Building Codes and Fire Safety, stated: "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."
The new regulator will work within the Office for Food Protection and Standards (OPSS), which will be extended and given up to £ 10 million in funding to set up the new role. To promote and implement enforcement, it will cooperate with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards. The Building Safety Regulator will also carry out functions at national level, such as:
1. Establishing a register of relevant buildings and other national system
2. Ensuring that residents' complaints about safety issues are dealt with quickly and effective
3. Producing advice to help duty-holders discharge their responsibilities
4. Advising on current and emerging safety risks in relevant buildings
5. Hosting centres of excellence to strengthen enforcement, including specialist expertise to assist with prosecuting complex cases, and to develop best practice on engagement with residents.
An extensive search has also been commissioned by the government to investigate flaws in previous construction product testing regimes and to recommend how to avoid misuse of the testing framework. It will be headed by a panel of experts with expertise in the regulatory, technological and construction industries and will return with recommendations later this year.
In the Dame Judith Hackitt Study, the announcement follows guidelines that industry and government must ensure that construction materials are correctly checked, licenced, marked and promoted.
In July 2020, the draught Building Safety Bill was released by the government. The Bill set out the largest changes for a century of building safety legislation and contained measures to improve and expand the scope of government powers to control construction goods.
Together, in all facilities, the Fire Protection Bill, Fire Safety Order and the Building Safety Bill would revolutionise security and oversight for citizens.
A summary of the progress and actions being taken since the Grenfell fire has been released by the government.