Jane Embury looks at the culture of fire safety
Over the years, fire deaths in the UK have decreased dramatically.
In 2001/02 there were 583 deaths. In 2018/19, 318. Last year, during lockdown, it was 243. Many of those deaths happened in residential properties, but not all.
That’s why we must keep a clear focus on safety across the whole built environment. The lesson of Grenfell is that any building is susceptible to fire, and that it must be guarded against.
That, of course, is what building and fire regulations are there to do, but which can fall short of what we expect.
The Hackitt Review dispelled the belief that the building industry always works to the highest standards. And it also laid bare the fact that seemingly-safe building products were, in fact, unsafe.
In the rush to safety following Grenfell, inspectors found a whole range of safety issues from defective fire doors to missing cavity fire stops and from poor cladding to unsafe balconies.
Fire Safety Act
The bill to put that right is currently £10 billion, and will rise further. Meanwhile, leaseholders, as things stand, face enormous bills to put right poor building work for which they weren’t responsible.
The Fire Safety Act, voted into law last month, goes some way to putting right the faults of the past.
But it doesn’t go far enough in penalising those responsible for putting profit before people. The forthcoming Building Safety Bill may, and only may, include a compensation scheme.
Sorting out the interlinked issue of liability and compensation should be a government priority.
While that priority is important for leaseholders now living in unsellable properties, it’s important also for the industry as a whole.
While complex new-build properties, commercial or residential, will have long-term accountability for safety issues, that doesn’t yet extend to the whole of the building sector.
Once that is achieved, then, hopefully, the whole of the building and construction sector will be working to the highest standards of safety.
That in turn should change the culture of some companies who currently see compliance as the target to aim for.
At Wrightstyle, as with the great majority of companies in our sector, we see compliance as a bare minimum to aim for.
Absolute safety is our target, and we achieve that by testing all our internal and external glazing systems as one compatible unit. That means subjecting the glass and our framing system to the very worst that the test regime can throw at it.
It’s why we can offer our systems as complete and guaranteed. All have been furnace-tested to provide the level of fire protection they claim.
Not only that, but we have also tested one of our systems with SCHOTT PYRANOVA® 120 glass to 148 minutes integrity and insulation.
The importance of that fire test is that it provides dual-directional fire safety. As things stand, fire protection is generally specified from a high-risk to a low-risk area.
Fire, as we know at Wrightstyle, can start anywhere, often in low-risk areas. That’s why every part of a building should be made as safe as possible.
We jointly carried out the test with SCHOTT Technical Glass Solutions GmbH, one of the world’s leading speciality glass manufacturers.
Fire should, and must, be guarded against in any residential or commercial environment. Compliance with regulations isn’t enough; a culture of safety must be embedded throughout the industry.