Industry News

News Editor: Patrick Mooney

Publisher: Anthony Parker

Features Editor: Jack Wooler

Studio Manager: Mikey Pooley

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Managing Director: Editor’s comment

At long last, the firm action we’ve been waiting for!

Patrick Mooney, News Editor

Well we’ve had to wait more than three and a half years for it, but at last we are beginning to see a serious response from the Government to the horrors of the Grenfell Tower fire which killed 72 people on a warm Summer’s night in one of the richest capital cities on the planet. It remains to be seen how successful the various measures will be in preventing such an awful loss of life from ever happening again, but in many respects the responsibility for preventing such an awful tragedy also lies with all of us, particularly those who work directly in the construction, refurbishment and building maintenance sectors. I hope the new building safety regulator really does mean business when he says he will come down like a ton of bricks on any wrongdoing, such as cutting corners to increase profits, or using inferior quality materials, or failing to invest in staff training or competent supervision. Public confidence has taken an enormous hit and the time being taken to sort out the removal of dangerously flammable cladding from residential buildings and sort out who needs to pay for this, really is not helping matters. It is a shocking example of inertia and of people in power failing to demonstrate leadership.

Simon Reed

Cointronic House, Station Road, Heathfield, East Sussex TN21 8DF

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EXPOSING WRONGDOING However, there is only so much that can be achieved by regulation and inspection, as important as they are. Throughout the duration of the inquiry I have been struck by the lack of focus on whistleblowing. You know the sort of thing – encouraging people to put their hand up and say ‘enough is enough, what’s happening there is wrong, it needs to stop and be corrected immediately’. Many of the participants at the Grenfell inquiry have pointed their fingers at others and very occasionally at themselves and close colleagues. So why wasn’t an entirely avoidable disaster averted? We do not live and work in a society where it is easy to identify, report on and put a stop to wrongdoing in the workplace. This means we are all, directly or indirectly, discouraged from highlighting and reporting poor behaviours and bad practices. No one wants to be seen as a snitch or a grass! We also fear the consequences of reporting on others and running the risk of losing our job. Those brave souls that do go out on a limb and report on their colleagues or managers usually live to regret it. They often find themselves exposed and ostracised, sidelined and forced to sign confidential non-disclosure agreements. Sometimes they are sacked, or forced to resign. There is little or no incentive for people to do the ‘right thing’, it can always be excused as someone else’s responsibility. This is a culture and work ethos we need to change and to correct, without delay.

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ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY Whistleblowers can be our first line of defence in protecting the public, ourselves and our work colleagues from sloppy workmanship, cronyism, fraudulent behaviours and worse. But we need effective and confidential ways in which the alarm can be raised and for prompt investigations to take place. Where claims of wrongdoing are proven, proper corrective action needs to be taken promptly and the guilty parties dealt with – this could be a training issue, or it could mean prosecution. So much depends of knowledge, risk and intent. The new regulator could help by setting up a hotline for people to report their suspicions of wrongdoing and using experienced, forensic investigators to examine the evidence and to act quickly where necessary. Like the Ombudsman, it needs to increase accountability and transparency through its public reporting, but it also needs the time and space to investigate concerns quickly and with the full force of the law behind it. It must not allow itself to get bogged down in slow moving bureaucracy and red tape. Safety regulation is there for a good reason and we ignore it or under-resource it at our peril. It is worth repeating that there will not be any prosecutions over the Grenfell fire, until after the public inquiry has concluded and reported. This could mean that the survivors and relatives of the victims have to wait until next year or even until 2023 before they see some sort of justice taking place. In the meantime, we owe it to the victims to put our energy into ensuring there is no repetition of the fire or of the circumstances that lead directly to it. If we all commit to being activiely responsible and safety conscious, not turning a blind eye to wrongdoing, then a massive step forward will have been taken. Collectively we should all be safer as well.

Patrick Mooney


APR/MAY 2021

Warning signs existed a decade before Grenfell

Unlimited fines in tough new fire safety regime

Millions to be spent on ending rough sleeping

Ombudsman reports on

individual cases

Huge fine for rogue landlord

On the cover...

The new Artifex development in Salford from Salix Homes. Photo Credit: Salix Homes See page 32.

4 | HMM April/May 2021 |

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