Grenfell Tower - Lessons Learned?

Most of you will have heard the devastating news this week of the Grenfell Tower incident in London this week where fire safety failings have led to the deaths of residents. This should not have happened in modern society where ‘multiple failings’ contributed to the largely avoidable catastrophe.

By saving £2 per square metre on the cladding, a legal (though banned in the US) form of external insulation was used which accelerated the fire by forming a ‘chimney’ in combination with metal cladding which also melted in the heat of the blaze. This spread the fire upward while raining droplets of burning material below.

No government review was commissioned despite warnings about potential dangers of current regulations and building design, especially with regard to older flats and buildings. It is likely that additional measures and reviews will take place potentially leading to changes in legislation. Often major disasters, such as Piper Alpha, Bradford City fire disaster and The Herald of Free Enterprise lead to major overhauls in health and safety legislation.

Fire safety features such as means of escape, detection and warning systems, fire suppression (including sprinklers) and fire safety construction such as fire doors may be found to have been inadequate. Results of this investigation are still pending but it is likely that failings in these areas could have been prevented. Only a single means of escape was provided in a 24-storey residential building. While still currently within legal limits, an alternative means of escape could have prevented more deaths and injury.

A key component of this was that fire risk assessments were not up to date. A fire risk assessment was carried out in December 2015 yet the refurbishment was not completed until May 2016.

This may have provided vital information to prevent and/or protect residents from potential fires. A comprehensive fire risk assessment by a competent person is a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Further changes to define competence and frequency of assessment may be one result of this unfortunate tragedy.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/15/eight-failures-left-people-grenfell-tower-mercy-inferno/

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