More than nine in ten civil engineers believe their profession has lessons to learn from the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) surveyed its members to mark five years since the fire, which is commemorated on 14 June.
Only 7% of respondents felt the sector had become less safe since the fire at Grenfell, compared with 36% who felt it was safer and the same proportion saying it was ‘about the same’.
Just one in five rated the infrastructure sector’s response as being ‘excellent’ (1%) or ‘good’ (19%), compared with 45% who felt it was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Respondents were most critical of its record on 'updating and enforcing regulations and standards' with 38% scoring it ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
A similar proportion (31%) had the same view about 'sharing lessons and best practice'.
They were more positive about ‘ensuring competence of civil engineers and ongoing professional development' with 40% scoring performance in this area as either 'excellent' or 'good'.
Asked about how the ICE could support its members to improve standards, most (83%) agreed that it should ‘work with other professional institutions to promote a whole-systems, multi-disciplinary approach for the lifetime safety of infrastructure assets’.
There was also strong support for 'working with other organisations to review, comment on and disseminate lessons from concerns, near misses and catastrophic incidents’ (82%) and for ‘supporting members to report their concerns and work with organisations to encourage confidential reporting’ (70%).
In 2018, ICE commissioned the In Plain Sight report, which examined how the industry could help mitigate the risk of the most serious infrastructure failures.
The report expressed the view that there were lessons to be learnt from Grenfell for the whole construction industry and it made several recommendations to place a greater emphasis on public safety.
Among its recommendations was a stronger focus on continuing professional development (CPD) to ensure that civil engineers stay up to date with best practices in safety and risk management.
ICE has since produced several safety-related learning modules for its members which it has made available through a new, dedicated e-learning platform.
It has also introduced a new framework that offers guidance on the topics that they should be covering.
Other recommendations focus on the need to improve the reporting of risks and incidents, and to record and share these lessons more widely.
Since last year, fire safety has been included in the industry-wide reporting system known as CROSS UK (Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures).
This was a key recommendation from Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety in the construction industry.
Ed McCann, President of ICE, said: “We owe it to the 72 people who lost their lives at Grenfell to ensure that lessons are learnt.
Our survey shows the majority of civil engineers feel the same. Everyone working in the construction industry has a responsibility to make sure a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again and to maintain public confidence in our profession.
“We are working hard to help our members keep their skills and knowledge up to date throughout their careers, and to improve reporting mechanisms.
"While there is still much work to do, this progress will help ensure that public safety is always the top priority in our industry.”
The survey also found that two in every five respondents (41%) felt that Grenfell had had an impact on their own practice as a civil engineer.
Over 78% felt there had been some impact on their learning from areas outside their immediate discipline.
More than 75% also reported that it had affected their awareness and prioritisation of public safety and of professional regulations and standards.
Notes to editors:
For more information, or to arrange interviews with an ICE spokesperson, please contact Kai Tabacek on [email protected] / +44 (0) 7818 939 701.
The online survey of ICE members received 258 responses and was conducted between 20 May and 6 June 2022. Respondents included 65% Members, 24% Fellows, 8% Graduate Members with the rest made up of Student, Technician and Associate Members. Less than 2% of respondents were based outside the UK, with all regions and nations represented.
ICE’s In Plain Sight report.
To mark five years since the Grenfell Tower disaster, ICE will light up its headquarters at One Great George Street, Westminster in green on the night of 14 June as part of the #GreenForGrenfell campaign.
More about CROSS UK.
The ICE Knowledge Hub, which holds all of the CPD learning materials, is available to ICE members.
About the Institution of Civil Engineers
Founded in 1818, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is a UK-based international organisation with more than 95,000 members, ranging from students to professionally qualified civil engineers. As an educational and qualifying body, with charitable status under UK law, we support our members throughout their careers, and help society to have trust and confidence in infrastructure professionals.
Under our Royal Charter, ICE has become recognised worldwide for its excellence as a centre of learning, a public voice for the profession and a leading source of expertise in infrastructure and engineering policy.