Thursday, 27th July, 2017
At least 80 lives were lost in the devastation of the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington, London on June 14th, and while several inquests and investigations continue, we must ask ourselves what we need to learn from this?
Certainly it can be agreed that a complete overhaul of construction practices in relation to fire safety is required. Experts from both the HVAC and fire safety industries have asked for an urgent review of Building Regulations and specifically how it enforces rules and how it scrutinises fire risk. Of course there is currently an urgent review underway with respect to the materials responsible for the rapid spread of the fire, the external cladding panels. The Government and local authorities are assessing the results of the inspection and testing of similar installations all over the UK.
But while the external cladding has been blamed for the Grenfell Tower disaster, questions are now being asked about the safety of other construction materials, such as the fire rating of insulation, after it was found that these had also failed safety tests.
Fire procedures in the construction industry
The review of events at Grenfell Tower have identified what is felt to be “endemic failings” in how the construction industry handles fire risk and also how buildings are managed. Meanwhile, the Government has been accused of stalling over a review of the Building Regulations, while fire experts have criticised the Government decision to repeal the London Building Act. This contained specific requirements relating to the fire resistance required on the outside of buildings, and the decision came when it had been acknowledged that Grenfell Tower had been built with additional safety measures required.
Various safety organisations have grouped together to write to the Prime Minister to declare that it is “totally unacceptable” that residents, the general public and emergency services had been exposed to such preventable risk. They have called for an enforcement of the Building Regulations and better funding for the management of maintenance for social housing. Alas, ministers seem more intent on scrapping health and safety regulations altogether and deregulating rather than putting more and better measures in place.
Experts in fire safety
Robinsons have a team of experts in fire safety and we have implemented safe systems of work in many different organisations across several different sectors. We are joining the call for the role and status of the Building Regulations to be reviewed. We also want to ensure that outstanding measures and recommendations following the 2009 Lakanal House tragedy (in which six people died) are finally implemented, after they remain in review awaiting a revision that is yet to happen.
It is widely felt that the expertise of engineers and professionals in the construction and fire safety industries is undervalued by certain bodies, and real improvements continue to stall due to bureaucracy.Back to News