The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) will review its continuing professional development (CPD) programme following recommendations published in its interim post-Grenfell report.
After the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June this year, the ICE began to research potential vulnerabilities in the country’s infrastructure. Yesterday (Monday) its interim report was published, called In Plain Sight – reducing the risk of infrastructure failure.
Although the report does not focus on the Grenfell Tower fire, it does identify weak points in the engineering sector which could lead to a catastrophic infrastructure failure, potentially resulting in loss of life.
It found pressure on ageing infrastructure, as in many cases assets are used by more people than they were designed for. For newer assets modern procurement, funding and management systems are more complex than in the past, which means knowledge gaps occur and could leave room for mistakes.
“We’ve all been shocked by Grenfell,” past ICE president and leader of the report Peter Hansford told New Civil Engineer.
“And given the mood that’s currently around in the aftermath we think it’s the right time to be saying are we missing anything? Have we allowed any gaps to grow in our defence to appear? So this is really an opportunity to take stock on these important issues.”
He added: “We don’t want to prejudge anything in the public inquiry – we’re not touching on anything that might be the subject of criminal investigations, or whatever they might be.
“But we think we should be getting on with [our own review]; we don’t think it would be in the interests of the profession to wait to see what comes out of next year [from official investigations] and only then start looking at ourselves.”
While the panel behind the report found the risk of infrastructure failure to be relatively low, it did find areas where risks could occur, particularly around poor communication.
For example in a report into the collapsed wall at an Edinburgh school it was found that while poor construction was partly to blame, there had been poor quality assurance and information on similar issues at other schools had not been shared.
The panel recommended the ICE work more closely with other infrastructure bodies to share more learning from safety reviews, accidents and near misses.
It also recommended the ICE should review its continuing professional development (CPD) offering and code of professional conduct to make sure they are fit for purpose. Finally the panel said the ICE must work with other institutions on developing better governance for major assets, advising that a technically competent engineering voice should be present when safety decisions are made.
Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group chief executive Rudi Klein said that while the report was good, he hoped the ICE would develop its themes by combatting a growing concern over poor technical construction quality with a licencing system for firms.
He added the ICE should work on developing “procurement change that enables technical specialists in the supply chain to engage as early as possible with consulting engineers to deliver the safest value for money outcomes.”
The recommendations are the result of a two-month consultation by the panel. Three expert groups have been set up to work on the recommendations in time for the final report, which will be published in the spring.
ICE president Tim Broyd said: “The country witnessed a major tragedy during the Grenfell Tower fire. Our industry delivers major economic infrastructure and it is beholden on us to make sure that we are fully aware of the risks of potential failure. That is why I commissioned this report and why I have asked the director general of ICE to take a series of actions in light of the recommendations.”
This evening, incoming ICE President Lord Robert Mair will lay out his vision for the ICE over his tenure, called ‘Transforming Infrastructure, Transforming Lives – Building on 200 years.’
He will say one of the biggest challenges is to get young people to join the profession: “Throughout my career, I have seen first-hand how engineers can transform lives and I am excited at the prospect of a whole new era of smart technology. I plan to use the opportunity of my presidency to help make the profession of civil engineering fit for a digital future and ready for the potential changes to the way infrastructure is delivered.”
“I see a great and vibrant future for our profession, for infrastructure and for the lives of every person on this planet, regardless of who they are or where they were born. The challenge now is to encourage young people from all backgrounds to join us in this profession, one which has the power – and the responsibility – to literally change the world for the better.”