It seems Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council hired a fire risk assessor to check Grenfell Tower on the basis that he could fight the London Fire Brigade if firefighters demanded extra safety requirements – or simply called for existing requirements to be fulfilled.
Here’s the gist, from The Independent:
A fire risk assessor who worked on Grenfell Tower reportedly suggested Kensington and Chelsea council could withhold a report detailing the building’s safety failings from the London Fire Brigade.
Fire consultant Carl Stokes was paid £244,318 over seven years as fire risk assessor for Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), according to documents seen by Inside Housing.
And Mr Stokes advised the organisation that they did not have to disclose safety risks and risk being obliged to deploy expensive “additional fire safety measures”, the Mail on Sunday reported.
A Fire Risk Assessment for Grenfell Tower submitted by Mr Stokes to KCTMO in November 2012 suggested burying the report because the London Fire Brigade “have the power to undertake an audit of the fire risk assessment to determine if it is suitable and sufficient or not.”
Mr Stokes was recommended to KCTMO directors by housing official Janice Wray as “willing to challenge the fire brigade on our behalf if he considered their [safety] requirements to be excessive.”
The article goes on to list some of the safety failings in Grenfell Tower in 2012, including failure to maintain or inspect escape staircases, fire extinguishers and emergency escape lighting.
Now, even if the council did bury this report, it must have been seen by a certain number of people, and a certain number of them would have understood its significance.
So where were the whistleblowers?
Here’s your answer:
That’s right – whistleblowers get sacked.
You may also be aware that the spark that lit up Grenfell Tower like a matchstick was said to have been a fire in a fridge-freezer. The London Fire Brigade – again – has been warning about the frequency of these fires since 2010 at least:
We are calling for fridge freezer manufacturers to act now to make their products safer.
More than one fridge freezer fire a week
Despite seven deaths and 71 serious injuries in London since 2010, we believe most manufacturers are still dragging their heels on making fire safety improvements.
There is, on average, one fridge freezer fire a week in the capital and we have been lobbying the industry to make their fridges and freezers more fire resistant for the last three and a half years.
What’s the problem with them?
Fridges and freezers are of particular concern to us because they contain large amounts of plastic and highly flammable insulation, which, if ignited, can cause large, rapidly developing fires that spread quickly, giving off highly toxic gases.
The doors and side panels of most fridges and freezers are usually covered in metal but we are concerned that many still use a flammable plastic backing which offers very little protection against the highly flammable insulation catching alight if a fire starts.
What we want to see happen
We are calling on the industry to ensure the backs of fridge freezers are made of non combustible or fire retardant materials as standard.
A friend of This Writer made an excellent point about this. She wrote:
“London Fire brigade warned of hazards of plastic-backed freezers 2010, reminded of it 2015, regular cause of fires. No action on the part of manufacturers (I enquired today how I could know which was metal backed, which plastic backed – and was told ‘no info provided’.)
“Regulation is supposed to be there to protect us from hazards we don’t know about, the hazard was well-established, no regulation introduced.
So the council failed to enforce regulations.
And fridge/freezer manufacturers failed to act on the safety recommendations of the fire and rescue service.
And now the survivors are being failed by the authorities put in place to help them get back on their feet, according to David Lammy MP (whose own conduct in this matter has been exemplary):
Treatment of Grenfell survivors & families has been a shocking indictment of our country. We have failed as a nation pic.twitter.com/lFsuJQGr2o
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) July 2, 2017
There is a simple reason why the residents of Grenfell were treated so abominably by those whose only job was to protect them. It is the same reason the survivors continue to be treated with contempt:
They are not rich.
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