Hackitt to lead major UK fire safety review

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

Dame Judith Hackitt

FORMER IChemE president Dame Judith Hackitt is to lead a major independent inquiry into fire safety and building regulations in the UK, following the huge fire in the Grenfell Tower block in London on 14 June.

At least 80 people are known to have died in the inferno in the Grenfell Tower, although the full number or identities of all the dead may never be known. Initial investigations suggested that the fire began in a faulty fridge freezer, but rather than being contained in the flat it began in, the fire engulfed almost all of the building.

On 28 July, the first results of large-scale testing of building cladding systems were published, proving the initial theory that the rapid spread of the fire was due to faulty aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on the exterior of the block of flats, which was not fire resistant. More than 80 buildings around the UK are known to be affected by similar materials which do not meet fire regulations. As a result, the UK government has now called for the new review of the regulations, to better understand how current building regulations and fire safety works and to improve them in the future.

The new review led by Dame Judith, who served as chair of Great Britain’s Health and Safety Executive from 2007-16 and is now chair of EEF, the manufacturers’ association, will have a particular focus on high-rise buildings. The review will look at the regulatory system of the design, construction and management of fire safety in buildings, compliance and enforcement of regulations and internal regulation. It will report to communities secretary Sajid Javid and home secretary Amber Rudd. The final report will be published in early 2018, and the government has pledged to act swiftly on any recommendations.

Javid said that the government is determined to ensure that it learns the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire and ensure that nothing like it could ever happen again.

“I am honoured to be asked by government to lead this important independent review. This review will look at building regulations and fire safety to see what changes can be made for the future to make these more effective,” said Dame Judith. “I am keen to engage widely with industry and the public to inform the recommendations from the review. I want the recommendations to lead to any necessary improvements in the system being made.”

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

Senior reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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