The Hackitt fire safety report and challenges posed by tenants
Thursday 25th January 2018
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
The report points out that safety does not depend simply on getting the design, materials and construction methods right, but on its management during the whole lifecycle of the building. The finger of blame has previously been pointed at construction and refurbishment failings. Criticism has focused on cladding systems on high-rise flats and whether the provision of sprinklers should be mandatory. However, we must remember that residents have a duty of care to their neighbours too.
Housing associations are in a constant battle with some residents who block open fire doors and use hallways and stairs to store belongings that obstruct escape routes and fuel fires. Others refuse to smoke only in designated areas and clog up smoke detectors with socks to defeat alarms. Unofficial DIY projects can breach property compartmentalisation. People with mental health, drug or alcohol issues sometimes have difficulty understanding or following safety advice. How do you educate residents in fire safety? There's no easy answer.
Problems are not caused only by residents. Big housing associations have thousands of properties, requiring large maintenance teams. They contract many tradespeople, which brings the challenge of keeping track of whether the right materials are used and checking that fire compartmentalisation isn't compromised.
Big housing associations contract many tradespeople, which brings the challenge of checking that fire compartmentalisation isn't compromised.
One of the most confusing aspects of fire safety for residents is evacuation procedures, particularly the "stay put" method. Based on the premise that fire doors provide 30 to 60 minutes of protection, many mobility-impaired residents are given personal emergency evacuation plans that require them to stay in their homes and wait for the fire service to rescue them. It is a procedure cited as contributing to some of the Grenfell Tower deaths. Some residents who develop mobility problems that make their flats unsuitable can be reluctant to move yet cannot be forced to, even though they are potentially placing themselves and fire officers at risk.
A "stay put" policy also brings management problems. Some fire services are reticent to engage with this procedure. Fit and previously mobile residents can develop problems that require a sophisticated monitoring process. Maps of the premises marking "stay put" residents can be left on site and kept up to date, but how do you manage short-term absences? Clearer advice and a standard approach for evacuation methods from fire authorities is needed.
It is hoped that the Hackitt review and the separate inquiry led by Sir Martin Moore-Bick into the circumstances surrounding the Grenfell fire will address these significant issues. We need greater clarity on when to apply a "stay put" policy or when another evacuation system is safer. We must seek better ways to engage residents and educate them on fire safety. The problem is that fires remain rare and such arrangements are not needed until they are vital; so how do you keep them fresh in people's minds?
A more detailed announcement scrolled across television screens, warning: “If you are indoors, stay indoors. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building or lay on the floor.”
Rating: As the preface says, “we have been very successful in cluttering and clogging workplaces with safety stuff that does little but clutter and clog” so it’s now time to question some of our most fundamental tenets and models.
Some practitioners have asked whether ISO 45001 is a game-changer. I think it may be because international standards matter. They help organisations to deal with multiple regulatory systems, approaches and cultures across economic boundaries and national borders. Some 2.78 million people die globally due to their work each year and management standards can encourage much-needed solutions.
Because of my day job, I’m used to thinking about bad weather and safe working loads and thought: “This shouldn’t be too hard!” In fact, it was more difficult than I had assumed, but I kept turning up. You need crew to help you to inflate the balloon, so I helped with that and with balloon inspections.
Join Isabel Velasco, Analyst at Verdantix and the Cority team for a live webinar as they review these regulations in detail and offer practical advice to help you prepare for these major changes. Wednesday, February 7 3:00 - 4:00 PM Central Europe Time 2:00 - 3:00 PM Greenwich Mean Time 9:00 - 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time You will learn: