Tom Roche

Senior consultant for international codes and standards, FM Global

Author Bio ▼

With more than 20 years’ of risk management experience, Tom is responsible for working with a variety of agencies, national bodies and associations to influence national codes and standards that relate to loss prevention in Europe. Prior to his current appointment as Senior Consultant, International Codes and Standards for FM Global, Tom served in a variety of engineering and engineering management roles across the UK, as well as acting as an engineering manager in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Southern Africa and the Middle East.
July 3, 2019

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FIRE SAFETY REGULATIONS

3 changes to fire safety regulations that could prevent another Grenfell

More than two years on from Grenfell there’s much still to do to prevent a repeat of the worst residential fire in modern UK history.

Here are my recommendations for three changes to fire safety regulations the government should introduce, among many others helpfully suggested by other industry experts.

1. Installing sprinkler systems as priority in at-risk buildings

The installation of automatic sprinkler systems should be a priority in at-risk buildings.

This does not just refer to high-rise buildings, but also schools, hospitals, care-homes, university accommodation etc. Any location where people are likely to be unfamiliar with the layout of the building, asleep, or be less mobile, delaying evacuation, should be seen as at-risk.

The evidence for the effectiveness of sprinkler systems is clear – according to a 2017 study by the National Fire Chiefs Council, sprinkler systems controlled or contained the fire 99% of the time (out of 945 cases). For residential buildings, the average damage suffered by a fire with a sprinkler systems was 4 sq. m compared to 18 sq. m without – the average damage sustained for sprinklered residential buildings is less than a quarter of those buildings without sprinklers.

Given the potential for lives and buildings to be protected by sprinklers, the argument for installing them in at-risk buildings is overwhelming.

2. Improving the testing regime of cladding and other hazardous materials

Whilst the Government has rightly banned combustible cladding on certain types of buildings, including high rises, owners and managers should not be complacent. The UK’s currently flawed system of building regulation system has allowed hundreds of buildings to be coated with various types of unsafe cladding (such as aluminium composite material and high pressure laminate).

Materials that are to be used throughout the built environment should be tested in large-scale systems, mimicking their likely use on buildings. A move in this direction for all buildings would minimise the possibility of unsafe materials, similar to those used on the Grenfell Tower, from being permitted, reducing the likelihood of a similar fire occurring in the future.

3. Adding property protection to building regulations

Current buildings regulations focus quite rightly on life safety with regards to fire risk. However, this sole focus leads to situations where a fire is deemed successful if no one is hurt, even if the building burns down completely.

That complete loss of a building is not what is expected by many in the face of fire as they seek to quickly reuse a building after a fire. Proportionately incorporating property protection in building regulations would simultaneously make buildings safer and easier to evacuate from, as well as reducing the burden on UK plc by enabling buildings to become re-usable more quickly.

Building owners and managers should be aware the complying with current guidance is the absolute bare minimum requirement, and does not guarantee the survival of the building itself. Solving the issue this misconception presents by incorporating property protection in guidance would be a major step towards preventing another Grenfell-type fire occurring again.

 

 

 

 

 

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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DougRodney AinsworthMichael Quinlan Recent comment authors
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Michael Quinlan
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Michael Quinlan

VAT is added to the business world in a matter of days.
There are no lives lost when completed.
My question is ….after Glenfell why nothing in 2 years??
Well both matters are about the money, one is for getting the money in…the other sadly is about paying out to save lives.
Attricinal polertics with lives.

Rodney Ainsworth
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Rodney Ainsworth

The first issue is that you can install the best equipment and systems but unless they are properly inspected and maintained in accordance withstandards and manufacturers recommendations they will fail when they are needed most. A dedicated and knowledgable engineer must be appointed to the task and given the support they need. The next issue is building management. This must be carried out 24/7 by a dedicated team on site. Weekly or monthly visits by an annonimous inspector who couldn’t really care less, is of no value what-so-ever. Additionally they must be professioal, given the correct level of authority and… Read more »

Doug
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Doug

Industry Standards vs People I was recently in a hotel when a fire alarm went off at 02:00hrs and note below my observations on peoples reactions and some design faults. The fire door was thick enough to make the hallway alarm inefficient and had been going off several minutes before waking. This I believe was mentioned by Grenfell survivors. Why sensors in these buildings aren’t fitted with an audible and flashing light for deaf people is beyond me. Of the 1200 guests only approximately 100 ‘evacuated’ including a young couple who used the lift! A symbolic sign for all languages… Read more »