towerFor those of us who have spent decades working in safety conscious industries the events surrounding a tower block fire in London are very disturbing.  The cause of the fire itself will be addressed by a public enquiry but the actions that followed the fire are also worrying.  The removal and testing of building panels raises a string of questions on the approval of designs, change control disciplines, the marking of materials, conformity inspections and the maintenance of design and build records.  The testing of the physical panels themselves appears to reflect a vote of no confidence in all that has gone before.

If the cause is austerity then in a well-organised business one would expect systematic austerity.  All buildings might be fitted with unsafe but compliant cladding in an effort to save money.  Instead it looks like we have chaotic austerity: the processes – or lack of them – are as much an issue as the technicalities.

Austerity is not much different from normal competitive commercial pressure.  After all, as the saying goes, all aeroplanes are made up of parts from the lowest bidder.  It is the processes wrapped around the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of aircraft which keeps them safe.

So there are sheep and goats.  Well organised industries make mistakes but know how to recover.  Chaotic industries are…chaotic.  But the warning is for all.  No one can afford to be smug.

The excellent London Economics report ” The economic impact on the UK of a disruption to GNSS” is far ranging and covers both sheep and goats.  Some sectors will find it easy to respond to the findings; others will struggle.  And in the hi-tech world of satellite positioning, navigation and timing the technical issues are – dare I say it – more complex than building cladding.

The economic impact on the UK of a disruption to GNSS.  Commissioned by Innovate UK, The UK Space Agency and the Royal Institute of Navigation.