Press for progress
We’re fast approaching the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which provides an opportunity to remember, take stock, reflect and consider what has happened since then – and what needs to happen to ensure we never see a repeat of that terrible night.
The public inquiry into the fire, now in its second phase, is still ongoing. Phase 1 looked at the events leading up to the fire, identifying the origin, the spread and the emergency response, and provided recommendations. Now in phase 2, it is focusing on areas of particular interest and importance, seeking to determine why the fire happened, and what can be done to prevent it happening again.
Dame Judith Hackitt was commissioned to lead a separate review into building and fire safety. Her report, published in 2018, recommended a number of measures, many of which were included in the Building Safety Bill, which is currently going through the UK Parliament.
This issue’s cover feature looks in detail at what progress has been made and, drawing on the expertise of people from a variety of backgrounds, explores what more needs to be done to ensure people living – and working – in high-rise accommodation are safe.
Like other tragedies that have cost many lives, Grenfell was entirely avoidable. There were similar incidents in the years leading up to it – including the Lakanal House fire in south London, in 2009 – but lessons weren’t learned. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to implement new, robust measures around building and fire safety.
IOSH has contributed regularly to this discussion, and we need to press for more progress on areas that OSH professionals have previously highlighted. These include the removal of unsafe cladding, the retrofitting of sprinklers and the accrediting of fire risk assessors. We’d also like to see the implementation of the new building and fire ‘safety case regime’, an increase in fire safety capacity and widespread promotion of good regulation as an investment rather than a cost.
Of course, fire safety issues are not unique to the UK. There are high-rise buildings the world over and we have to question how safe they are. It is unacceptable that fire risk management in these buildings is still so lacking.
What is clear is that we all, including OSH professionals, have a role to play when taking action to prevent harm and protect people’s lives and livelihoods.
So it is clear there is still work to do, and we must continue efforts to ensure health and safety professionals have a major role to play in prevention, learning lessons, improving standards and driving a culture for change.
Lives depend on it.
Ruth Wilkinson | Head of health and safety, IOSH