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Complexity Kills: What regulators should learn from the Grenfell Tower Fire

Recent media coverage of the Grenfell fire incorrectly assigns fault to government-led regulatory cuts. There were multiple process failures contributing to the tragedy at Grenfell, including overly complex regulations and entrusting safety compliance to a non-accountable entity.

The tragic loss of 80 people on June 14th in the U.K.’s Grenfell Tower fire cast a dark shadow on government efforts to improve efficiency in regulatory processes. Media headlines in the NY Times, “Why Grenfell Tower Burned: Regulators Put Cost Before Safety” and “After Grenfell Tower Fire, U.K. Asks: Has Deregulation Gone Too Far?” spared no criticism in their condemnation of regulatory reform initiatives.

Was it, as the NY Times suggested, government attempts to “free businesses from the burden of safety regulations” that resulted in this horrific scenario? As a non-profit organization that facilitates public dialogue on regulations, the Argive team felt it was important to to research and understand the lessons we should learn from such terrible tragedies.

Key Takeaways:

  • Complexity kills. Safety regulations should be as simple and straightforward as possible to ensure compliance and protect lives.
  • Timely regulatory review is critical. The timely review of existing regulations should never be sacrificed to meet arbitrary regulatory reduction goals.
  • Regulators should take public comments seriously. Incorporating public feedback into rule making in a timely and transparent manner would improve regulatory effectiveness.
  • Regulations should be stricter for government-operated entities. Liability under tort law is an inadequate incentive for government entities who cannot “go out of business” if they fail to address complex safety risks. Stricter personal liability or more explicit safety regulations should be considered for government owned entities.

For a full report, please view our article on Medium.