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Unite calls for fresh start on construction regulations following Grenfell fire

Unite, the UK’s largest construction union, is calling for a radical new approach to regulations and safety laws, following the Grenfell Tower fire.
Unite has three key demands: an overhaul of building regulations, the end of attacks on existing regulations and the implementation of a licensing regime across the industry.
Unite’s national construction committee is calling for an urgent review of the existing building regulations which must place safety first rather than profit at its core. As well as a complete prohibition on flammable materials in buildings, Unite supports the installation of sprinklers in all new social housing and public buildings.
Unite further supports the retrofitting of sprinklers in existing buildings at the earliest possible opportunity.
Unite is calling for the introduction of a licensing system to be introduced across all construction trades. This would be in line with the existing gas engineers licence scheme operated by Gas Safe, which means that it is illegal for non-licensed practitioners to undertake such work.
In addition, all construction companies should be registered in order to undertake public sector contracts.
Unite also supports the scrapping of both the government’s Red Tape Initiative which is seeking ‘easy wins’ to scrap European Union regulations as part of the Brexit process and the government’s current one in three out policy on the introduction of new regulations.
Since forming a government in 2010, various Conservative ministers have continuously attacked and weakened safety laws. The government is cutting the HSE’s budget, by 46 per cent by 2020 compared to the funding it received in 2010.
Unite national officer for construction Bernard McAulay said: “Unite has repeatedly warned that attacks on safety laws and the weakening of the building regulations could have catastrophic consequences. Sadly those concerns have been shown to be entirely correct.
“We call on all politicians of all parties to take responsibility and act in the best interests of the industry, workforce, tenants and the public.
“We now need to have a major sea change in the way that we view regulations. Rather than a knee jerk reaction to cutting red tape we should be educating people to understand that properly enforced laws and building regulations are essential in ensuring safety.
“In particular, we need to professionalise the construction industry by introducing a licensing and company registration system so only fully accredited workers and bona fide construction companies can undertake construction work on all future public sector contracts, especially involving safety critical work.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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