Dame Hackitt, author of the Building a Safer Future report, said companies or individuals who break regulations could face the same penalties, including criminal prosecution, as those currently applied under the Health and Safety Act.
Speaking at a press briefing in Westminster, the former Health and Safety Executive chair said: “Serious penalties will be according to those applied under Health and Safety At Work Act.
“These will be unlimited fines and imprisonment.”
Dame Hackitt was speaking following the publication of her report looking into Building Regulations and fire safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy last June which claimed 71 lives.
The report called for a new regulatory framework to be created for high-rise buildings to improve building safety and ensure resident safety.
Dame Hackitt suggested implementing incentives for companies “to do the right thing” by following the regulations, but also serious penalties for those who “choose to game the system”.
She said: “Yes there are those that build safely, but there are also those that take shortcuts and are reasonably confident they won’t get caught.
“What I do know is the penalties under the Health and Safety Act can provide a deterrent.”
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The report said at present, formal enforcement for breaches of building and fire regulations were increasingly rare, and the number of cases had fallen by around 75 per cent in the last decade.
She said: “What I don’t want to see happen here is wait for a tragedy like Grenfell to happen before we apply the full criminal sanctions of the law on this industry.
“We have to get to a situation where people who are putting lives at risk with what they are doing are picked up, and sanctions are applied there and then – not in the aftermath of a tragedy like this.”
Dame Hackitt did not call for a ban on combustible cladding in the report despite calls from across industry, Grenfell survivors and politicians for the review to outlaw its use.
She said: “I know there has been much concern around cladding.
“If people think that simply banning cladding would fix it all, it won’t; it is a broken system and banning cladding on its own will not fix it.”
However, earlier in the press briefing she did say: “I’m clear that buildings should only be clad with safe and non-combustible materials.”
When asked whether Grenfell would have happened if her framework had been in place, she said that the cladding used on the Grenfell Tower would not have got through her system.
Dame Hackitt added: “What we need now is the government to move quickly on implementing these changes and the industry to lead the way and start living these changes, knowing what is coming under the new framework.”