Grenfell Tower- A seismic shift? Catalyst for change?

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Grenfell Tower- A seismic shift? Catalyst for change?



We could see it happening! We told you so!

Having been in the fire protection business for over 30 years I have said these words a number of times, I have been involved in the closest of examination of what went wrong? How did it happen? How did it envelop? What were the significant events? What made it into a tragedy?

Those closest involved will push for improvements so that it never happens again unfortunately the cost of putting things right will be exponential compared with the minor steps needed to prevent the tragedy in the first place.

In my opinion, the factors that link every major tragedy together are competence, assumption and negligence.

The adage that it cannot happen to me makes the truth of Murphy’s Law; and those that predicted the scenario gleefully recount the near misses that led them to their prediction.

Without a doubt and the discussion I have had every day since the tragedy lead me to conclude that yet again the real importance that is management of fire safety requires resource. It is the diligence of audit and control along with the maintenance of systems to a recognised competence, standard and/or benchmark that we all know is required and continued monitoring.

It is all there, but for whatever reason the balances and checks that an effective integrated management system provides were missing.

Obviously any negligence will be punished to the full extent of the law and quite rightly it should, whether organisation and/or professional individual. However, I do hope that justice prevails and we do not just get a sacrificed lamb just to appease the mob.

With Grenfell Tower specifically, objectivity has been sacrificed by the media frenzy of lynch mob proportion. Shaming, naming and speculation to an agenda completely out of proportion to the tragedy.

Objectivity is impossible with so many elephants in the room causing a spread of the debate so wide, only the real conspiracy theorist have not fully joined. In yet, whilst every life lost in tragedy is sacrosanct and intolerable it is important those interested in risk assessment do coldly look at these occurrences in perspective before knee jerk over prescription. It should be remembered that 140 people are killed on our roads, and 2000 seriously injured every month in 2016, and very little progress has been made to prevent this tragedy.

Where am I going with this? I hear you ask, I appeal to all of us to get back to our work as diligently as we can and to the best of our ability.

The profession should take stock, alter the risk matrix accordingly and double check the assurances we have received from others.

In my opinion, we should heighten the attention to Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations, check validity of design, model and assumption. Train others to pay particular attention to certifications of conformance, commissioning and maintenance competence. Create an audit, check and balance to confirm conformance.

Continue the same vigilance day in and day out. A lesson hard learned. 

Written by Jim Creak, Editor of Means of Escape

Published: August 2017

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    We could see it happening! We told you so!

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