Grenfell Tower inquiry recommendations set to impact the housing sector

Grenfell Tower
An inquiry report following the tragic fire incident at Grenfell Tower includes a number of recommendations which will have a major impact on the UK housing sector if adopted.

The fire which destroyed Grenfell Tower in West London in June 2017 killed 72 people. It broke out in the kitchen of a fourth floor flat at the 23 storey tower block, and within minutes raced up the exterior of the building and spread to all four sides.

There were no evacuation plans for Grenfell Tower in place. The Grenfell inquiry report therefore suggests that building owners should be required by law to develop evacuation plans for all high-rise buildings. Such evacuation strategies should include the retrofitting of manual or smart alarms to alert residents – a move that would represent a significant shake-up of fire strategy for building owners and social landlords.

Apart from evacuation strategies for all new high-rises, the inquiry calls for regular fire door inspections, and “vigorous” progress removing cladding. The main reason for the quick spread of the fire were the cladding panels “with polyethylene cores, which had high calorific value, melted and acted as a source of fuel for the growing fire”. Cladding, particularly with decorative features can allow fire to spread horizontally.

These are the most significant recommendations from the report affecting the housing sector:

• The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building should be required by law to provide their local fire and rescue service with information about the design of its external walls together with details of the materials of which they are constructed and inform the fire and rescue service of any material changes made to them.

• The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building should be required by law to provide their local fire and rescue services with up-to-date plans in both paper and electronic form of every floor of the building identifying the location of key fire safety systems and ensure that the building contains a premises information box, the contents of which must contain a copy of the up-to-date floor plans and information about the nature of any lift intended for use by the fire and rescue services. 

• The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building should be required by law to carry out regular inspections of any lifts that are designed to be used by firefighters in an emergency and to report the results of such inspections to their local fire and rescue service at monthly intervals.

• The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building should be required by law to carry out regular tests of the mechanism which allows firefighters to take control of the lifts and to inform their local fire and rescue service at monthly intervals that they have done so. 

• The government should develop national guidelines for carrying out partial or total evacuations of high-rise residential buildings which should include the means of protecting fire exit routes and procedures for evacuating persons who are unable to use the stairs in an emergency, or who may require assistance.

• The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building should be required by law to draw up and keep under regular review evacuation plans, copies of which are to be provided in electronic and paper form to their local fire and rescue service and placed in an information box on the premises.

• All high-rise residential buildings (both those already in existence and those built in the future) should be equipped with facilities for use by the fire and rescue services enabling them to send an evacuation signal to the whole or a selected part of the building by means of sounders or similar devices.

• The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building should be required by law to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised. 

• The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building should be required by law to include up-to-date information about persons with reduced mobility and their associated people in the premises information box.

• Floor numbers should be clearly marked on each landing within the stairways in all high-rise buildings and in a prominent place in all lobbies in such a way as to be visible both in normal conditions and in low lighting or smoky conditions. 

• The owner and manager of every residential building containing separate dwellings (whether or not it is a high-rise building) should be required by law to provide fire safety instructions (including instructions for evacuation) in a form that the occupants of the building can reasonably be expected to understand, taking into account the nature of the building and their knowledge of the occupants.

• The owner and manager of every residential building containing separate dwellings (whether or not they are high-rise buildings) should carry out an urgent inspection of all fire doors to ensure that they comply with applicable legislative standards.

• The owner and manager of every residential building containing separate dwellings (whether or not they are high-rise buildings) should be required by law to carry out checks at not less than three-monthly intervals to ensure that all fire doors are fitted with effective self-closing devices in working order. 

• All those who have responsibility in whatever capacity for the condition of the entrance doors to individual flats in high-rise residential buildings, whose external walls incorporate unsafe cladding, should be required by law to ensure that such doors comply with current standards.

The report did not recommend that individual flats be provided with fire extinguishers or fire blankets, noting that this could encourage residents to fight fires rather than escape and call the emergency services. It also did not recommend the installation of sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings.

Lockton works closely with architects, engineers and contractors to assess and mitigate their risk exposure. If you would like to discuss your insurance requirements, please contact: 

Andrew Swan, Vice President Global Professional Risk Solutions
Tel: +44 (0)20 7933 2505
E-mail: andrew.swan@uk.lockton.com 
 

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