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A considered response to this nation’s horror

Tom Fitzpatrick

The Grenfell public inquiry started this week and shed new light on several personal tragedies.

To hear an audio recording of victim Mohamed Neda saying goodbye to his loved ones by voicemail, or Marcio Gomes describing his stillborn son, Logan, would have brought tears to the eyes of anyone who heard them.

An emotional response is appropriate in these circumstances, just as a considered one is needed to ensure Grenfell isn’t repeated. 

When Dame Judith Hackitt told CN she was “shocked and appalled at an industry that doesn’t recognise its moral responsibility to deliver safe buildings” it was hard, therefore, not to feel some sympathy.

But this wasn’t an emotional response; it’s a considered one.

To have spent the time she has investigating such a horrific blight on this nation and industry makes her uniquely qualified to pass judgement. 

Any leader of a construction business will tell you safety is their top priority. By safety they mean the people they employ for what is often dangerous work, as well as the public.

Are they considering the moral responsibility for safety of the people who will live in the homes, working in the offices, driving the trains? Possibly, to an extent, certainly at a project level. But their priorities will be on their workforce and completion of projects, not the people using them in 20 years’ time.

However, instead of telling an industry of millions of workers to ‘feel more morally responsible’, the Hackitt report has set out recommendations that will force improvements and safer practices.

These include a joint competent authority stopping work on sites where risks are identified; clients and contractors ensuring cost reduction doesn’t supersede safety; and the government mandating digital record-keeping for the lifecycle of higher-risk residential buildings.

Responsibility for occupant safety should be shared and spread. Coverage of Dame Hackitt’s report inevitably focused on the lack of a ban for combustible cladding. Dig a little deeper and there are actions which, if taken, could prevent another Grenfell.

New Network Rail boss could be worth every penny

Andrew Haines was named as Network Rail’s new boss on Monday. As he perused the ‘rail chaos’ headlines that morning, dubbed ‘Meltdown Monday’, I wonder if he paused to question his decision.

Network Rail’s work is under ever-increasing scrutiny and will dominate his life, as his predecessor Mark Carne discovered. Up to 9 per cent of Mr Haines’ salary is ‘at risk’, meaning it’s dependent on performance. If he earns the full £588k, his appointment will have been worth every penny. 

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