The destruction wrought by the fire at Grenfell Tower was an assault on the status quo. The extent of the tragedy is not yet known. Cladding tests have not been completed, fire prevention checks are still disputed and most importantly, eight months have passed and all the families have yet to be rehoused. On top of this, it will be some time before the cost to landlords and leaseholders will be known.
The focus in the weeks to come must remain on the immediate. Grieving those who perished, settling the victims in new homes, sustaining the safety of tower blocks up and down the country.
The enquiries will analyse the events and the responses of the various organisations. They will then turn to the prevailing climates of opinion; the organisational cultures that allowed the series of events to culminate in an horrendous tragedy. Most accidents do not ‘just happen’; the law, requires employers to provide systems that are planned, organised, performed, maintained and revised as appropriate so as to be, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health. Inevitably, there will be a focus on these systems and social landlords will be reflecting on their own practices. Boards will need to ask whether such systems are in place, communicated and understood by all employees. In addition, effectively managing for health and safety is not just about having a safety management system. The success of the process or system in place still hinges on the attitudes and behaviours of people in the organisation - the ‘safety culture’.
It’s complicated so let’s go back to basics. Social landlords hold properties. They manage these assets for a social purpose. Managing assets well means using them to extract value. There are many competing priorities and interested stakeholders, there needs to be a co-ordinated response.
South Shropshire Housing Association, along with Meres & Mosses Housing Association have been accredited with ISO 55001 which requires a management system for physical and other organisational assets. It helps develop an asset management strategy that focuses on getting the maximum use and return from an asset while potentially lowering the overall cost of ownership or management.
ISO 55001 supports effective asset management by assessing whether the objectives are compatible with organisational objectives, that adequate resources are available, communication is effective, cross functional collaboration is promoted, risk is clearly identified and processes are in place for managing information.
Critically, the standard requires evidence of systems of collaboration with interested parties which for social housing organisations can mean a sharing of responsibility and decision taking with tenants and residents.
No external standard can guarantee another catastrophe will not occur. Connexus brands South Shropshire Housing Association, along with Meres & Mosses Housing Association are the first housing associations to achieve the ISO 55001 standard. We have found that the greater clarity, better organisation of resources and putting systems in place for the free flow of information between occupants and managers creates a more transparent and deliberate approach to maximising the benefit of assets. Risks are reduced and tenants and residents safety is maximised. Old ways of working are no longer sufficient, this approach provides a step change in improving property management.