Professional Risks: ‘Beyond Edinburgh Schools’ – Lessons for the Future Griffiths & Armour News

Professional Risks: ‘Beyond Edinburgh Schools’ – Lessons for the Future

The sudden and dangerous collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary School in January 2016 led to the closure of seventeen schools in Edinburgh, sparking an independent inquiry whose report and findings were published... (read more)

The sudden and dangerous collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary School in January 2016 led to the closure of seventeen schools in Edinburgh, sparking an independent inquiry whose report and findings were published earlier this year.

Image of the damaged school

Griffiths & Armour’s Paul Berg and Stephen Hargreaves were invited to present at the recent IStructE invitation only conference, ‘Beyond Edinburgh Schools’ and sought to restate the importance for engineers, and indeed all stakeholders, in adoption of a ‘risk aware’ agenda. (hide)

The conference examined the independent report and engaged in a lively debate about the lessons to be learned by all stakeholders in the delivery and supply chains. The Griffiths & Armour contributions drew... (read more)

The conference examined the independent report and engaged in a lively debate about the lessons to be learned by all stakeholders in the delivery and supply chains. The Griffiths & Armour contributions drew startling parallels between the independent inquiry’s findings and the recommendations made in our latest risk management publication, Managing Risk in a Changing Business World, which was based on extensive research and a broad engagement across the construction sector. The ‘seven deadly sins’ identified in our predecessor publication as recurring causes of problems on construction projects were amongst the factors identified in the independent report on Edinburgh Schools.. (hide)

Our conference address challenged employers on their methodology of assessing good value for money as distinct from lowest cost. Questioning then developed in to whether current procurement strategies truly assessed... (read more)

Our conference address challenged employers on their methodology of assessing good value for money as distinct from lowest cost. Questioning then developed in to whether current procurement strategies truly assessed risk transfer and management or were focused merely on pushing the financial responsibility down the supply chain. At what point in the current model does the employer assess whether their strategy is working? (hide)

The independent inquiry makes recommendations that include an enhanced site presence for professionals with potential certification responsibility, whilst acknowledging the need for this to be reflected by an uplift... (read more)

The independent inquiry makes recommendations that include an enhanced site presence for professionals with potential certification responsibility, whilst acknowledging the need for this to be reflected by an uplift in fees; but does it go far enough? We suggest not, especially given the report’s further recommendations that PI insurance requirements in contract also need to be considerably increased – again this is a focus on the extent of financial responsibility as opposed to focusing on the authority and influence of the professional in the overall procurement and project delivery model. the real lesson from Edinburgh – and indeed our wider research – is that employers should be prepared to engage in a much more fundamental debate about how risk is managed and not merely focus on how to fund risk when it goes wrong.

We believe that procuring failsafe insurance products should only be one (very important) part of a much wider risk management strategy and that looking to those insurance policies for financial recovery after the event should be a last resort as opposed to the primary focus. We observed that both the failure at Edinburgh Schools and the horrific losses of life at Grenfell Tower are events that should lead all employers to think afresh about the skills and structures that maximise the likelihood of successful outcomes. (hide)

In conclusion, it was agreed that the engagement of highly skilled consultants and contractors lies at the heart of effective risk management; it is the skill, experience and intelligent input of human beings that can play... (read more)

In conclusion, it was agreed that the engagement of highly skilled consultants and contractors lies at the heart of effective risk management; it is the skill, experience and intelligent input of human beings that can play a major role in preventing things from going wrong. Those skills require to be assessed effectively and not simply on a ‘lowest cost’ measure. After all, financial products generally only (at best) fund compensation payments after the event.

Employers who engage skilled teams:

  • with an appropriate degree of involvement and authority,
  • who are remunerated at a level commensurate with their required input, and
  • who provide independent advice and which they heed (even when it means tweaking the budget)

are employers who are most likely to deliver successful projects and outcomes.

For more information on the ‘ten virtues’ identified as being key to managing the risks inherent in professional practice within construction or if you have any questions related to this article, please let us know. (hide)

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