PETER BAKER will hold the role of chief inspector of buildings, and ‘set up and lead’ the building safety regulator (BSR) that will be implemented as part of the Building Safety Bill (BSB).

In January 2020, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced ‘the biggest change in building safety for generation’, including the formation of the BSR, changes to height limits and new consultations. The new measures would ‘go faster and further to improve building safety’, with the previously announced new building safety regulator to be sited within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and ‘established immediately’.

Mr Jenrick stated that the ‘slow pace of improving building safety standards will not be tolerated’, and added that the BSR will ‘give effective oversight of the design, construction and occupation’ of high risk buildings, as part of the HSE, which ‘quickly beg[a]n to establish’ it ‘in shadow form’ prior to full establishment with legislation.

The BSR will ‘raise building safety and performance standards’ and oversee a ‘new, more stringent regime’ for higher risk buildings, and Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a board to ‘oversee the transition’. The HSE was chosen for its ‘strong track record of working with industry and other regulators to improve safety’, and would ‘draw on experience and the capabilities of other regulators to implement the new regime’.

In July last year, the government revealed that the BSR will ‘make sure that accountable persons are carrying out their duties properly’, and ‘ensure that high rise buildings and the people who live in them are being kept safe’, with ‘new powers to raise and enforce higher standards of safety and performance across all buildings’.

Resident panels will be appointed to have a voice in developing the regulator’s work. For construction, the BSB will ‘fully establish’ the BSR to ‘enforce new rules and take strong actions against those who break them’, ensuring they are ‘accountable for any mistakes’. The BSR’s three functions including overseeing safety and standards of all buildings; ‘directly’ assuring safety of higher risk buildings; and improving the competence of those ‘responsible for managing and overseeing’ works.

A ‘more stringent’ set of rules for high rises will apply when buildings are ‘designed, constructed and then later occupied’, with each stage making it ‘clear who is responsible for managing the potential risks and what is required to move to the next stage’. This ties into the “golden thread” of ‘vital information about the building’, and buildings need to be registered with the BSR as well as apply for a building assurance certificate.

One part of the bill will see ministers appoint the UK’s first chief inspector of buildings, who will lead the BSR ‘to make sure effective action is taken where concerns are raised’. Building has now reported that Mr Baker has been hired for this role by the HSE, in which he will ‘set up and lead’ the BSR, taking on the role ‘with immediate effect’ having previously been the HSE’s director of building safety and construction, with over 30 years of experience as an inspector.

Mr Baker was also HSE’s chief inspector of construction from 2015 to 2018, and since 2017 has led its involvement in the building safety programme. He will be the first head of the building control procession, and in turn ‘lead work to provide independent, expert advice to industry, government, landlords and residents on building safety’.

He said: ‘I am honoured to be appointed as the first chief inspector of buildings and for the opportunity to play a lead role in bringing about the biggest change in building safety for a generation. I look forward to working with government, industry, partner regulators and residents to shape and deliver a world-class risk-based regulatory system for the safety and standards of buildings that residents can have confidence in and that we can all be proud of.’

Dame Judith was ‘delighted’ at his appointment, and added: ‘With his impressive background experience in regulating both major hazards industries and construction he brings a wealth of experience to this important new role.’

Finally, HSE chair Sarah Newton welcomed Mr Baker’s appointment, stating he had a ‘deep understanding of assessing and managing hazards’, and a ‘long track record of working in partnership with industry and other regulators to bring about behavioural and culture change that improves people’s safety’.