Britain should revise its approach to fire safety in tower blocks and follow other countries in adopting ‘active’ measures such as sprinklers, a leading safety body has said.
As the Grenfell Tower public inquiry got under way, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) urged it to investigate housing providers’ reliance on compartmentation for high-rises – the use of fire-resistant walls and floors to stop the spread of a fire.
Relying so heavily on a ‘passive’ approach to fire safety, said the IOSH, means that the UK lags behind countries that take a more active approach, with buildings designed to detect and extinguish fire.
A recent BBC Breakfast investigation that focused on half of the UK’s council and housing association-owned tower blocks found that only two per cent had full sprinkler systems.
In 2013, a coroner recommended the retro-fitting of sprinklers in tower blocks after the fatal Lakanal House fire in Southwark, London, in 2009.
Richard Jones, the IOSH’s head of policy and public affairs, said: “We know that sprinklers can help save lives. Most people will be shocked by the BBC’s findings and find them unacceptable in modern Britain.
“This is particularly so, given the coroner’s recommendations following the Lakanal House fire on the retro-fitting of sprinkler systems.
“Croydon council has taken a positive decision to retrofit sprinklers in their 25 tower blocks – other councils should follow this lead – we can’t put a cost on saving human lives.”