Fire chiefs slam “lack of competence” in construction

Grant Prior 7 months ago
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London Fire Brigade chiefs have attacked a “general lack of competence” among building designers and construction companies.

They warn: “There will be an increase in serious building fires unless the construction industry starts to take fire safety more seriously.

“The responsibility for ensuring buildings are constructed with proper fire safety measures sits with the construction industry and yet a general lack of competence means that dangerous decisions are being made about buildings’ design or construction.”

The warning comes in the LFB’s submission to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review into building regulation and fire safety following the Grenfell disaster.

Brigade experts said they often see serious flaws when they inspect buildings including:

  • Significant construction defects – such as flawed compartmentation between flats which can allow fire and smoke to spread throughout buildings.
  • Critical fire safety systems – such as mechanical smoke ventilation- that either were not installed as per the original design, were poorly designed, or are not functional.
  • People in control of buildings not understanding or even knowing what fire safety measures are in place, let alone how best to maintain them.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said: “It took a tragedy for everyone to take fire safety seriously and listen to what the Brigade has been saying for years about skills.

“Urgent action is needed to better regulate those who are responsible for ensuring a building’s design, construction and maintenance are fit for purpose.

“There are countless points where a dangerous decision can be made about a building’s design or upkeep and hardly any measures to ensure that the people making those decisions are sufficiently experienced and properly qualified.

“This means that potentially dangerous design flaws could exist within a building until we either find it at a later date, or in the worst case scenario, it is exposed by a serious fire.

“We don’t have the legal powers or the resources to check the entire fabric of a building but we often uncover dangerous flaws that we can’t ignore.”

The LFB is now calling for:

  • Formal qualifications or accreditation for those who install life saving systems like smoke ventilation and fire detection and alarms.
  • Clearer definition of who is responsible for what under fire safety legislation.
  • A clamp down on companies who act as a building control body as well as offering fire engineering design advice without clear separation between the two roles.
  • A robust independent on site inspection program that ensures the fire safety elements of a building’s design are translated into the finished construction.

Daly added: “We recognise that this is a once in a generation opportunity to make buildings safer and are actively supporting the review process.

“We have had a series of helpful meetings with Dame Judith Hackitt’s office and look forward to reading her interim report due before the end of the year.”

 

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