The Government’s Green Paper on social housing admits Grenfell “shook public trust in the wider system of fire safety” but does little to tackle the issue of accountability – essentially, ‘who’s responsible’? A few pages on informing residents on safety issues, and further questions about whether or not the safety ‘Regulator’ needs to be strengthened is frankly, somewhat feeble, given the gravity of the situation for many. There’s little sign here of plans to implement Dame Judith’s Hackitt’s recommendation of a new ‘dutyholder’ to oversee safety.
The Green Paper calls residents “consumers” suggesting they should have a choice over options, however in many cases in social housing, this is far from the reality. Arguably they should be treated as needy recipients of a service, robustly administered with clear lines of accountability, whether it is building, or maintaining the places where they live.
While Government is continuing to ask questions, one manufacturer in the door security sector has got to the heart of the matter with its recent ‘white paper’ on door security. Assa Abloy’s interesting document (available at www.assaabloy.co.uk) responds to Dame Hackitt’s review, and attempts to propose ways in which the industry can work together towards best practice. However it also identifies some salient truths in terms of failings at Grenfell which the Government’s done little to address as yet.
The company says that compartmentalisation failed “due to failures in hardware specification and lack of fire door inspections”. It also highlights the importance (which should be self-evident) of “not only ensuring that third-party certification for fire door products is in place and specifications are fit for purpose, but also ensuring that they are installed correctly and maintained”.
Doors recovered from the tower “were found to be fitted with untested metal fittings that significantly affect their ability to resist fire, and some were fitted with glazing not included in the relevant test evidence”. It adds: “Even if these problems had not been present, none of the doors found are believed to have been in line with current guidance”.
Why? The next page provides depressing hints: “The lack of clarity (on roles and responsibilities) can cause specifications to be overlooked or outright ignored; those acting at each stage assume that it is someone else’s responsibility to ensure everything is being done correctly. In many cases, the lack of information, understanding and clarity being passed on means that companies and individuals working on a building may not even be aware of the necessary details”.
When will Hackitt’s new recommended ‘oversight’ framework be introduced? It cannot come a moment too soon.