Interim report into the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Recommends Change is Needed

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in June an independent review of Building regulations and Fire Safety was launched.

The Chair of this independent review has found that a “universal shift in culture” is required to rebuild trust amongst residents of high-rise buildings and significantly improve the way that fire safety is assured.

Dame Judith Hackitt, who was appointed by government to lead released the interim report this week. Alongside her interim report, Dame Judith is calling on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address the ‘shortcomings’ identified so far.

The interim report finds that:

  • a culture change is required – with industry taking greater responsibility for what is built – this change needs to start now
  • the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose
  • a clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to, must be created

In particular the report has identified 6 broad areas for change required:

  • ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous
  • clarifying roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe
  • improving levels of competence within the industry
  • improving the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations
  • creating a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to
  • improving testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction

Dame Judith has consulted widely in developing her interim report and will continue to do so in the coming months before making her final recommendations.

She continued:

I have been deeply affected by the residents of high rise buildings I have met and I have learned so much from them. These buildings are their homes and their communities. They are proud of where they live, but their trust in the system has been badly shaken by events of the last few months. We need to rebuild that trust.

The independent review will now undertake its second phase of work – including targeted work in partnership with the sector and other stakeholders.

A summit involving government and representatives from the building industry will take place in the New Year and a final report will be published in spring 2018.

London Fire Brigade urges high rise landlords to do more to protect their vulnerable residents from fire

6 months on from the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower London Fire Brigade is calling for landlords to retrofit sprinklers in all high rise blocks and other buildings with vulnerable residents.

Fire Chiefs are also calling for all new high rise buildings to be fitted with sprinklers as standard.

The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: “Sprinklers are the only system which detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm and we believe they are vitally important as part of a package of fire safety measures, particularly in buildings where there are vulnerable people such as care-homes and schools.

“We have long been campaigning about the benefits of sprinklers, which save lives and property and also improve firefighter safety.

What the Brigade is calling for:

• All new residential developments over 18m in height to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential blocks over 18m in height should be retrofitted with sprinklers
• Sprinklers to be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments
• All new residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be retrofitted with sprinklers

The Brigade also strongly advocates the use of sprinklers in:

• All homes occupied by the most vulnerable in our communities
• All other residential properties including hotels, hostels and student accommodation, over 18m in height
• All new London Fire Brigade buildings

The Brigade will continue to promote the installation in the following types of properties throughout London:

• Heritage buildings
• Basements
• Large warehouses

The Brigade address myths around costs

Assistant Commissioner Daly added: “There has long been a myth that sprinkler systems are very expensive and of course costs vary depending on the type of system, but for example in schools if they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1% of the total build cost.

“There are also self-contained watermist systems which are designed to provide protection to vulnerable individuals who may be at increased risk of fire and have mobility issues which affect their ability to escape. These Personal Protection Systems (PPS) can be installed in one room of a property where a vulnerable person spends most of their time.”

The work being done by Waltham Forest Council includes fitting sprinklers in three of its sheltered housing buildings. The work is being partly funded by a one-off grant from the Brigade’s Community Safety Investment Fund and existing council budgets.

The Community Investment Fund was set up to help protect individuals and communities across London that most need it. More than £2million in fire prevention grants have been awarded from the fund for a variety of projects from smoke alarms and fire retardant bedding to arson proof letter boxes and ashtrays.

 

£200,000 fine for work at height breaches

A London based construction company, Pride Way Development Ltd, has today been fined for repeatedly failing to manage and control fall from height risks.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, after concerns were raised by both workers and members of the public, HSE inspectors made a number of visits during 2016/17 to sites where Pride Way Development Limited had been appointed the principal contractor. On these visits, inspectors identified a number of serious health and safety failings, including unsafe work at height.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Pride Way had repeatedly breached health and safety legislation which gave rise to significant risk of harm, with four notices served for unsafe work at height in the past five years. A HSE intervention in 2013 resulted in the company drawing up a comprehensive work at height policy which subsequent inspections showed was being ignored.

Pride Way Development Ltd of Harrow Road, Wembley, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The company has been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,499.40

Speaking after the case, HSE Inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work fatalities in this country, and the risks associated with working at height are well-known.

“Pride Way has been repeatedly warned by HSE about the need to manage risks, and have today been held to account for failing to take adequate action to protect the health and safety of its workers.”

Local authority fined after social workers assaulted

A local authority has been fined after two of its social workers were assaulted on a home visit by the mother of a vulnerable child they were visiting.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 21 July 2015, two social workers employed by London Borough of Brent visited the home of a vulnerable child to carry out a child safety plan assessment. While note-taking, both social workers were struck over the head with a metal object by the mother, resulting in one of them being knocked temporarily unconscious. While both received serious wounds to the head, the social worker knocked unconscious was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found the local authority failed to follow its corporate lone working policy or violence and aggression guidance. No risk assessment was completed and staff were not trained accordingly. London Borough of Brent also failed to add an aggression marker to make the social workers aware of the hazards posed by the mother who was known to have a history of violence.

London Borough of Brent of Brent Civic Centre, Wembley pleaded guilty of breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, section 2(1) and were fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,918.88

After the hearing, HSE inspector Neil Fry commented: “Violent and aggressive incidents are the third biggest cause of injuries reported to HSE from the health and social care sector.

“The local authority in this case failed to adhere to and implement its own systems and procedure for the management of lone working and violence and aggression against social workers. This risk could have been reduced in a number of ways including carrying out the visit in a controlled environment, such as the local social workers’ office.”

 

Suspended Prison Sentence for Fire Safety Breaches

A Bethnal Green guest house owner who removed the staircase from his property has been hit with a £250,000 fine and a six month suspended prison sentence after being successfully prosecuted by London Fire Brigade.

Fire officers described the ‘City View Guest House’ on Cambridge Heath Road E2 as a ‘potential death trap.’

Mehmood Butt (55) of Mile End was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (17 November) after pleading guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  In addition to the fine and suspended prison sentence he was ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £14,200 and given a nightly curfew of 21:00 – 06:00.

Mr Butt was converting the building into guest house accommodation from a house of multiple occupation. This involved removing the internal staircase to put in a lift and fitting an open external staircase to the rear of the property which would provide the only emergency means of escape.

The work went ahead despite a Building Regulations application for the refurbishment being turned down due to safety concerns by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Following a visit to the site by building inspectors in March 2014 the Brigade was alerted and fire safety officers visited the premises and issued an Enforcement Notice requiring the inadequate emergency stairs and other fire safety defects to be addressed