Upholding the role of whistleblowers

The BBA is a well-known and respected certification body which, through its testing, inspection and approvals activity, has been supporting innovation in the construction products industry for more than 50 years.

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Brian Moore is the BBA’s Deputy CEO

Where anyone has concern about a BBA-certificated product or system, there is evidence that people will make a complaint or provide information in confidence that enables the BBA to inquire and act to address problems.

But, as Brian Moore, the BBA’s Deputy CEO, noted: “We are approached by people who want to raise wider concerns about malpractice that do not relate to the BBA. We often can’t deal with their concerns but don’t think this is a satisfactory situation.”

Legal arrangements for the protection of whistleblowers are tied to employment rights and legislation which provide for a large number of ‘prescribed’ bodies to whom a person can make a complaint, depending on the subject matter. But as Mr Moore commented: “We were surprised at how complex the law is where protection for the whistleblower only kicks-in if a disclosure is made to the right ‘prescribed’ entity. Problems can arise in cases where an allegation relates to a product manufactured in one location, assembled in another, distributed from another and perhaps installed nationally or internationally. The headquarters of the organisation – where key evidence and information may be found – could be located outside the UK. A bewildering array of ‘prescribed’ bodies could be involved, many of which are resource-strapped and may themselves lack the ‘reach’ to address the whole problem. It takes a huge commitment from a whistleblower to take this road, and I fear that many are put off by the complexities and difficulties of the process.”

Yet the role of whistleblowers in keeping an industry malpractice-free is invaluable, and the BBA is raising the profile of whistleblowers to ensure that their value is appreciated. “Of course, not every allegation from every whistleblower is well-founded, so keeping an open mind is essential,” added Mr Moore. “But where malpractice is happening, there is seldom anyone better placed to identify it than a concerned employee. This is why it is in everyone’s interests to have a clear, simple and well-coordinated approach to managing whistleblowers’ information.”

Favourite amongst the BBA’s proposals is establishing a ‘co-ordinating mechanism’ to help certification bodies like the BBA and the existing arrangement of prescribed bodies to work better together. As Mr Moore pointed out: “There are a large number of well-regulated certification bodies in the construction products sector which work hard to ensure that client companies uphold the ‘rules’ but there is nothing to stop a company which behaves improperly and is sanctioned by one body immediately moving to another. Where this happens, the cohesion of the industry is undermined and confidence damaged. The industry would be stronger if there was a mechanism to share relevant information and to be the point of contact within and between the industry and prescribed bodies like the police, trading standards and Ofgem. What is lacking is good comms, support, advice and coordination.”

Best practice

The BBA is consulting with stakeholders on the best way to achieve the goals of higher standards through better coordination. Mr Moore summed up: “The vast majority of companies in our industry sector do a great job, and those who try to do the right thing should expect support and help in navigating difficult subjects like whistleblowing.”

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