London Fire Brigade slams "lack of competence" in construction industry

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has issued a damning warning for the construction industry, insisting if standards don’t improve then more fires like the Grenfell Tower tragedy could take place.

The LFB has issued recommendations following the west London blaze and is part of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review into building regulation and fire safety.

Despite the LFB acknowledging it has no legal power to approve a building’s design nor any role in checking how it has been constructed, its experts have identified the following flaws when it comes to an inspection:

  • 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.

The LFB's 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. 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.”

Fire chiefs say a loophole in the current arrangements have allowed fire safety elements in buildings to be designed without any involvement from fire safety professionals and have issued the following recommendations in the hope of overcoming a “general lack of competence” among designers and construction companies:

  • 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.
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