The Building Safety Act as a culture change catalyst – what contractors need to know

The Building Safety Act has ushered in a new approach to building safety.

Introduced in the wake of safety concerns for occupants of high-rise buildings after the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Act is intended to improve the design, construction and management of higher-risk buildings.

For this reason, it’s easy to view the Act as primarily focused on health and safety. However, it’s much more than that – it also signifies a profound cultural shift within the industry. As such, the Act requires a complete cultural reset towards embracing a more positive safety culture.

In this blog, we’ll delve into why the Building Safety Act is more than just a health and safety matter, the industry’s duty to champion a positive safety culture, and the importance of behavioural competencies. As these key demands of the Act require everyone to play their part, here’s what contractors and subcontractors need to know:


Creating a cultural transformation

The Building Safety Act demands a cultural transformation throughout the entire construction sector, with everyone taking responsibility for building safety. The Act emphasises that safety should be ingrained in the industry’s DNA, rather than being solely reliant on regulations or assessors to ensure compliance.

Dame Judith Hackitt, who led the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, underscores the significance of this cultural change. She highlights the need for building safety to be an integral and intrinsic part of the entire construction process. This cultural shift is fundamental to rebuilding trust in the industry.

Previously commenting on the slow pace of culture change within the building industry, Dame Judith said:

“It would be an unacceptable failure of industry if the culture, which only it can change from within, remained the same and it continued to be solely reliant on regulations or assessors to catch them out or highlight grave errors, rather than embedding building safety as an essential and intrinsic part of the entire process.”

Dame Judith Hackitt


She continues: “This will only ever foster a culture of low-level compliance, rather than the innate safety-first mentality which is fundamental to rebuilding trust in the industry.”

Building Engineer, ‘Hackitt vents frustrations over slow safety culture change’, 


The rising importance of behavioural competencies


The Building Safety Act emphasises the need for the right skills, knowledge and experience throughout the supply chain, but it also adds behaviours to the list. Behavioural competencies are now a crucial part of the regulatory landscape – they’re expected of every contractor and they’re here to stay. Building standards state that;

‘ensuring that people possess appropriate behavioural competence is critical to achieving and maintaining building safety outcomes.’

Indeed, BSI Flex 8670 outlines four key principles for behavioural competence which the Act brings into law.

  • Respect for life, the law, the environment, and public good

This requires construction businesses to prioritise the health and safety of others, ensure ethical and lawful behaviour and recognize the importance of security and data protection.

  • Honesty and integrity

This ensures contractors behave reliably and treat others fairly, respect confidentiality and declare conflicts of interest, and reject bribery and corruption.

  • Accuracy and rigour

Contractors are expected to act with care and stay competent, assist in the development of others when it comes to knowledge and skills, and review evidence honestly and objectively.

  • Direction, conduct, and communication

This says that contractors should always communicate effectively and champion equality, raise awareness of industry advances and challenge concerning statements or policies.

These competencies are not new but are now enshrined in legislation. They ensure that all parties involved in construction prioritise safety, integrity and professionalism, and by embedding it into law, it’s hoped behaviour can become second nature and part of the culture shift.


A duty of care


One of the key behavioural changes that will be required by the whole industry, will be to demonstrate how they have safety at the centre of their organisation.

To fulfil its duties, the Building Safety Act requires companies to maintain the ‘golden thread of information’ throughout the lifecycle of a high-risk building. This is defined as ‘the information that allows you to understand a building and the steps needed to keep both the building and people safe, now and in the future’.

The thread is a digital, secure and easily-accessible repository of crucial information, such as details describing the building and outlining how it complies with regulations. It’s a fundamental aspect of building safety, ensuring that the right information is available to the right people at the right time.

To manage building information effectively, data must be:

  • Kept digitally
  • Kept securely
  • A building’s single source of truth
  • Available to those who need it
  • Presented in a user-friendly manner

The amount of information you need to keep depends on the building’s stage, with a strong focus on compliance with building regulations during design and construction. While it only currently applies to higher-risk buildings, it’s likely that the approach will eventually be more commonly adopted throughout the industry.

By adopting the golden thread of information now and embracing these practices, the construction industry can start to build and reinforce the positive safety culture the Act aims to instil.


An industry-wide call to action


The Building Safety Act heralds a new era in construction, one where safety is not just a legal requirement but an embedded part of the building culture. This is something that everyone in the industry must understand, including contractors and subcontractors.

Over several years, the industry has made huge strides forward in tackling issues such as duty of care and behaviours. Now it’s time to take the next step, to champion a positive safety culture and embrace behavioural competencies.

To explore how this legislation will impact your business, reshape your approach to safety and contribute to the transformation of the construction industry, visit the dedicated area on our website, The Building Safety Act Hub. 


Blog Buyers, Building Safety Act
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