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9 in 10 civil engineers think there are ‘lessons to learn’ from Grenfell

14 June 2022

A survey of ICE members marking five years since the Grenfell Tower disaster finds the tragedy has had an impact on the profession, and there is still work to be done. 

9 in 10 civil engineers think there are ‘lessons to learn’ from Grenfell
ICE commissioned the In Plain Sight report in the wake of Grenfell. Image credit: John G/Shutterstock

An ICE survey found that more than nine in every ten civil engineers think their profession has lessons to learn from the Grenfell Tower disaster.

ICE commissioned the survey of its members to better understand what impact the fire, which happened five years ago today on 14 June, has had on the infrastructure sector.

More than 250 members responded, representing every nation and region of the UK and all grades of membership.

The survey also found that only one in five respondents (20%) rate the infrastructure sector’s response to Grenfell as being ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, compared with 45% who felt it was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

They 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'.

Respondents 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'.

Only 7% felt the sector had become less safe since the fire at Grenfell, compared with 36% who felt it was safer and 36% saying it was ‘about the same’.

What has ICE done in response to Grenfell?

ICE commissioned the In Plain Sight report in the wake of Grenfell which made 11 recommendations on how to mitigate the risk of infrastructure failure.

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 now explicitly recommends what learning its members should undertake through an annual CPD framework.

It has also produced several risk and safety-related learning modules for its members. These include:

  • ICE Code of Professional Conduct
  • Swiss cheese model of risk management
  • CDM 2015 and its application
  • Understanding structural load paths

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.

Your practice as a civil engineer

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.

ICE President Ed McCann 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,” he said.

He highlighted that ICE is working hard to help members keep their skills and knowledge up to date throughout their careers and 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,” he said.

  • Kai Tabacek, media relations manager at ICE