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Building a Safer Future Charter launches ‘Charter Champion’ Company status initiative

07 June 2021

THE BUILDING a Safer Future Charter has launched its ‘Charter Champion’ Company status to help businesses actively drive the systemic culture change required to put building safety first.

The Charter, which is open to all, will help companies identify potential issues and develop continuous improvement plans to advance their overall approach and performance on leadership and culture in relation to building safety. This is critical if further tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire – where a perceived failure of leadership and culture seem to have been key issues – are to be avoided in the future.

Through robust self-assessment, benchmarking and independent verification and their participation in this process, companies will be able to identify ways in which they can help to reduce their overall risk profile. They will also be able to share examples of good practice and showcase them to the wider sector through the Charter’s Learning and Excellence Hub.

The first 12 companies who are demonstrating real sectoral leadership have signed up to complete the robust benchmarking and independent assessment process. Those organisations are BAM, Galliford Try, Kier, Mace, mhs homes, Persimmon Homes, Places for People, Salix Homes, United Living, Vistry Group, Wates and Willmott Dixon.

The findings of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety realised the development of the Building a Safer Future Charter by a group of early adopters including contractors, housing associations and local authorities, all of them with a vision of an industry committed to putting people’s safety first.

The Building a Safer Future Charter has been highlighted by Dame Judith Hackitt and the Industry Safety Steering Group as a key mechanism for leading the culture change required.

The benchmarking and verification process is now open for participation from across the construction industry. All UK organisations involved in the built environment can proactively participate and demonstrate their commitment to building safety by becoming Registered Signatories to the Charter and, if appropriate, progress to undertaking the ‘Charter Champion’ benchmarking process. This is particularly the case for Duty Holders.

Firm action being taken

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, the Minister for Building Safety, commented: “We are taking firm action to ensure that we never repeat the mistakes of the past, with this Charter representing a major step forwards in terms of delivering much-needed culture change in the built environment industry. I warmly welcome its introduction and commend the 12 organisations already signed up to become ‘Charter Champions’. I would strongly encourage more companies to become involved, especially those who will be playing a key role in the future building safety regulatory regime.”

Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings at the Health and Safety Executive (and a recent guest on Episode 19 of the Fire Safety Matters Podcast), explained: “Self-assessment, benchmarking and independent verification are important elements of a robust system to enable businesses to properly lead, manage and control major building safety risks. Businesses across the industry need to start preparing now for the new building safety regime. The ‘Charter Champions’ initiative is a valuable contribution to driving the necessary change in culture and performance across the sector to ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.”

Dame Judith Hackitt stated: “I’m delighted to see the formal launch of the ‘Charter Champions’ scheme. My congratulations go to Amanda Long and her team for the way in which they’ve built upon approaches which have been tried, tested and proved effective in other sectors in order to create the initiative. I have consistently called for the built environment sector to recognise the need for culture change which can only happen when leaders in the sector stand up and are prepared to demonstrate what ‘good’ looks like and to be held to account for delivery. I look forward to watching the ‘Charter Champions’ cohort grow as others see the benefits of becoming part of this important programme which offers a real market differentiation opportunity.”

Andy Mitchell CBE, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council, said: “The Construction Leadership Council welcomes the launch of the Building a Safer Future Charter and its ‘Charter Champions’ initiative. This is an important step towards an industry that’s committed to putting building safety first. The promotion of cultural change and leadership in the sector is vital. Those who wish to demonstrate real sectoral leadership in relation to building safety should be engaged with the Building a Safer Future Charter.”

Robust verification process

Stephen Elliott, chair of the Building a Safer Future Charter, observed: “The Building a Safer Future Charter provides a robust and independent verification process which will drive continuous improvement in leadership and culture in relation to building safety across the industry. We have taken learning and insights from tried and tested approaches and responses to major accident hazard safety in other sectors such as aviation and chemicals, both nationally and internationally, and contextualised them for the built environment sector.”

Amanda Long, CEO of the Building a Safer Future Charter, informed Fire Safety Matters: “In the built environment sector, the Grenfell Tower disaster has put building safety at the top of everyone’s agenda. From a moral, social and economic perspective, it’s now imperative that we embed enduring values, attitudes and ethical behaviours at the heart of all we do.”

Long continued: “The launch of the Building a Safer Future Charter’s ‘Charter Champion’ status is an important step in driving forwards the systemic culture change in relation to major hazard safety that’s required across the built-environment sector and throughout the entire value chain. As we progress on this critical journey, we should be seeking to raise standards and build public trust. I’m delighted to welcome the first 12 companies on the journey.”

Support from the British Safety Council

The British Safety Council is “delighted” that the first 12 companies have signed up to complete the robust benchmarking and independent assessment process required by the ‘Charter Champion’ status. In so doing, they are demonstrating real sectoral leadership.

Mike Robinson, CEO at the British Safety Council, commented: “The Charter is a key mechanism for delivering the culture change badly needed by the sector. Becoming a registered signatory means organisations can proactively demonstrate their commitment to building safety. The whole sector has a collective responsibility to safeguard the people living in their buildings and ensure these are safe places to live, both now and into the future.”

Further, Robinson opined: “We would encourage participation in the ‘Charter Champion’ initiative from across the construction and wider built environment sector and, in particular, from the duty holders required under the new legislation to undertake the benchmarking process. We look forward to seeing the ‘Charter Champions’ group grow as others also realise the benefits of becoming part of this important scheme.”

Abigail Bainbridge, chair of the British Safety Council’s Construction Sector Group and Persimmon Homes Group’s director of health, safety and the environment, concluded: “The principles of the Building a Safer Future Charter clearly align with our commitment to building safety. That being so, we’re proud to sign up to the initiative. We look forward to encouraging partners and suppliers across the industry to strive for ‘Charter Champion’ status.”

*For further information visit www.buildingasaferfuture.org.uk