Keep an Eye on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton hopes the Grenfell Tower fire Inquiry will bring about a mandate for fire sprinklers in residential high-rise buildings and schools.

I'll be regularly checking the website ( of the official Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, an examination of the June 14, 2017, fire that killed at least 80 people in a London residential high-rise building, and recommend that you do the same. The probe will examine the building's structure, materials, and modifications and its fire safety systems thoroughly, as well as the emergency services' response to the fire and what fire safety advice was given to the residents. Given that the Inquiry's chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, called the fatal fire "a tragedy unprecedented in modern times" in his Sept. 14 opening statement, the findings and recommendations from the probe should be highly useful for preventing such catastrophes.

If London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton gets her wish, the Grenfell Tower fire will bring about much-needed changes in English law. As the Inquiry began, she called for action now to require fire sprinklers in residential high-rise buildings and schools.

"The tragic fire at Grenfell has thrown fire safety into the spotlight and, while we are not pre-empting the findings of the Inquiry, now is the time to remind Government of life-saving recommendations we have been making for years," Cotton said. "We are calling for residential tower blocks to be retrofitted with sprinklers, and they should be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments. Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire, and raises the alarm. They save lives and protect property, and they are especially important where there are vulnerable residents who would find it difficult to escape, like those with mobility problems."

She stressed that retrofits are not expensive, when compared with the cost of a fire. "For years builders, developers, local authorities, and private housing providers have ignored the clear benefits of sprinklers," she said. "It's not just about homes; we go to around 80 fires in London schools every year. Fires in schools cause major disruption to pupils, breakfast and after school clubs are cancelled, and, often, a costly repair bill could have been avoided. If they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1 percent of the total build cost."

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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