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Remit for CROSS-UK expanded to encompass reporting on fire safety

12 April 2021

THE INSTITUTION of Fire Engineers (IFE) has been working alongside Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK (CROSS-UK) with a view towards expanding the latter’s remit to include reporting on fire safety. Individuals are now able to share their concerns about – and experiences of – fire and structural safety through a confidential safety reporting system.

This expansion to include a fire safety remit marks one of the first implementations of a recommendation contained within the Hackitt Review. Dame Judith’s final report suggested that CROSS-UK “should be extended and strengthened to cover all engineering safety concerns”.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Dame Judith Hackitt said: “This is a really important step in changing the culture around buildings and structures to one of openness and transparency. Other industry sectors like the airlines have shown how valuable this type of ‘no blame’ reporting of concerns can be in identifying potential causes of failure before they happen and ensuring that they are then shared with the whole sector.”

The IFE’s acting CEO Steve Hamm commented: “As the professional body for fire, the IFE welcomes the expansion of this scheme and the opportunity to work with CROSS-UK to develop its remit to include fire safety. This development will only enhance the scheme further to foster learning and the sharing of knowledge about a safer built environment.”

Neil Gibbins, past-president of the IFE and fire safety lead for CROSS-UK, stated: “CROSS-UK has developed a position of great value in the structural engineering profession. It’s a knowledge hub, a radar for risk, a safe place to share concerns and an active force for a positive culture. Extending its remit to include fire safety is a significant development for the fire profession and I encourage all IFE members to submit, read and use reports in order to benefit greatly from this resource and enhance competency levels.”

Development of safer structures

CROSS-UK was founded in 2005 and formally known as Confidential Reporting on Structural Safety. It’s owned on an equal basis by the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers. Both are registered charities in the UK and financially support CROSS-UK, along with the Health and Safety Executive.

The expansion of CROSS-UK’s functions was funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The IFE now joins this collaborative project, with Neil Gibbins and IFE technical director Dr Peter Wilkinson serving as the ‘designated persons’ responsible for reviewing reports, collating feedback from the CROSS-UK panel and developing a fire expert panel.

CROSS-UK has updated its name to better reflect the organisation’s values of the sharing of safety-related information for future learning and the development of safer structures. The website has also been revamped to make reporting more straightforward. It offers an easily searchable library of past reports as well as fire and structural safety information to help individuals and organisations learn more about the safety implications of their work.

The expansion of CROSS-UK’s remit to include fire safety through collaboration with the IFE – in tandem with other improvements to its reporting system – means that built environment professionals will be empowered to help make structures safer.

Benefits of safety reporting

The aim of reporting to CROSS-UK is to make structures safer and, ultimately, save lives and reduce injuries. Safety reporting helps to achieve this by:

*Promoting a culture change to encourage professionals to identify and report safety issues that occur throughout a structure’s life, including during design, construction, occupation or operation, demolition and re-use

*Sharing learnings in order to identify key lessons from safety reports and assist professionals in making structures safer

*Identifying pre-cursors that realise an opportunity to address precursors which might result in a risk to life safety in similar circumstances if not addressed

*Identifying shortfalls that can then be addressed in the design, construction, occupation or operation, demolition and re-use stages

*Improving competency by using published safety reports from CROSS-UK as training and learning to form a key part of increasing the competency levels of all professionals

*Supporting regulatory activities wherein information from analyses of the reports can be used for enforcement and wider regulatory activities such as planning future activity, publishing guidance and providing training and advice

*Supporting industry activities. For instance, safety reports can be used by industry bodies as a learning resource for their members. Trends identified from such reports can be used by industry to publish guidance and provide training.

*Assisting with horizon scanning. Culture change and improved competency will help professionals and others to look ahead and predict future safety risks which have not yet been identified as likely. These include low probability, but nonetheless high consequence safety incidents

*Further information is available on the CROSS-UK website: www.cross-safety.org/uk