The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has warned there will be an increase in serious building fires unless the construction industry “starts to take fire safety more seriously”.
The LFB said that “responsibility for ensuring buildings are constructed with proper fire safety measures sits with the construction industry and yet a general lack of competence means that dangerous decisions are being made about buildings’ design or construction”.
Changes to fire safety regulations called for by London Fire Brigade:
- A loophole to be closed which means technical fire safety elements can be designed without the involvement of a competent fire safety professional – for example escape routes.
- Formal qualifications or accreditation for those who install life-saving systems such as smoke ventilation and fire detection and alarms.
- Clearer definition of who is responsible for what under fire safety legislation.
- A clampdown on companies which act as a building control body as well as offering fire engineering design advice without clear separation between the two roles.
- A robust independent onsite inspection programme that ensures the fire safety elements of a building’s design are translated into the finished construction.
The organisation said that its fire safety experts often “face serious flaws” when they inspect buildings, including:
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 were 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 made its submission to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, commissioned following June’s Grenfell fire, last month.
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. Urgent action is needed to better regulate those who are responsible for ensuring a building’s design, construction and maintenance are fit for purpose.
“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.
“We don’t have the legal powers or the resources to check the entire fabric of a building but we often uncover dangerous flaws that we can’t ignore.”