Fire safety in the UK will no longer be achieved on the cheap, if the interim findings of a review are implemented. Sprinkler tanks could feature in life-saving improvements to tower blocks. Dame Judith Hackett, who is leading a wide-ranging review into fire safety following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, has criticised some current practices. Her interim report indicates that current building regulations are leaving room for shortcuts.
She was said to be ‘shocked’ by some of the practices she had seen and is calling for more rigorous enforcement measures to hold bad landlords to account. She indicated there needs to be a shift away from ‘doing things cheaply’. Seventy-one people died when fire ripped through a tower block in London six months ago.
Sprinkler tanks mandatory in many countries
While sprinkler systems have to be installed in some types of property in the US and many other countries, that is not currently the case in the UK. Some states in the US require sprinkler systems even in individual homes.
Dame Judith’s report said the fire at Grenfell Tower “should not have happened in our country in the 21st century”. Her final report is expected to be complete next spring. It aims to ensure fire safety is improved in the UK, and is not an inquiry into the circumstances of the Grenfell fire.
Current regulations ‘not fit for purpose’
Dame Judith said current safety regulations applied to high-rise buildings are ‘not fit for purpose’, and is being exploited by those who want to save money by cutting corners. She called for a new system of enforcement and regulation. However, she pointed out that major fires are rare in the UK and that her interim findings do not suggest that buildings are generally unsafe.
Interim report recommendations include:
- An overhaul of the “Approved Documents” in building regulations
- An accreditation system to ensure competence for people working on the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of complex buildings are suitably qualified
- Better consultation with fire services when designing buildings
- Building developers to ensure formal handover process for any new high-rise residential building before occupation
- More done to make sure that fire safety information is passed to the person responsible for running the building once it has been constructed
- Fire risk assessments are carried out at least annually
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