Following on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government is preparing to carry out an independent review of Building Regulations and fire safety following concerns that combustible cladding has been used on a wide-range of tower blocks across the country.

Widespread removal of combustible cladding

As a result of nationwide testing, it has been revealed that 82 high-rise tower blocks in England have failed fire safety tests, which comprised of testing the combination of cladding and insulation materials. The report by the Government revealed that combustible material has been used on a wide-range of residential tower blocks, including ones owned by local authorities and housing associations. Simulated fire tests carried out also identified that the same combination of cladding and insulation material used in the Grenfell Tower did not meet fire safety standards as it failed to prevent vertical fire spread.

Since Grenfell, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has pledged to determine the cause of the Grenfell Tower disaster, but to also explain why so many high-rise tower blocks have been identified as fire risks. The latest announcement by the Government to review current Building Regulations will seek to determine whether or not current legislation is suitable for ensuring fire safety.

Are fire safety regulations effective?

There has also been criticism from the shadow housing secretary John Healey that a review of Building Regulations and fire safety was long overdue. It had been reported that a review was promised by ministers following an earlier tragedy in Lakanal House, where cladding was identified as a potential implication of a fire that killed six people.

Healey has thereby urged the Government to expand the testing of further high-rise tower blocks and publish the findings so that owners, landlords and residents are aware of buildings which are considered as unsafe. Furthermore, the shadow housing secretary has called for the Government to assist with funding the costs of remedial works as earlier promised. The DCLG has stated that they seek to work with industry bodies and the Government to minimise any potential financial restrictions which may affect the upgrading of buildings.

Is current Building Regulations fit for purpose?

With the appointment of Dame Judith Hackitt, a former Chair of the Health and Safety Executive, the review into Building Regulations and fire safety will report into Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Home Secretary Amber Rudd. The Government seeks to avoid further tragedies by looking into the effectiveness of the Building Regulations and fire safety to ensure a disaster like Grenfell Tower never happens again.

Dame Judith has said: “I am honoured to be asked by the 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”.

With an interim report expected by the end of this year, and a final report likely by spring 2018, the inquiry seeks industry and public opinions to inform recommendations which may lead to improvements of regulations for the future.

The DCLG is now advising that landlords and owners of residential tower blocks which have been identified as ‘at-risk’ to act immediately to remove affected cladding and replace it with materials of limited combustibility, such as mineral wood insulation. As upgrading costs are expected to be funded by property owners, the Government has pledged to relax borrowing restrictions to help owners fund replacing the cladding.

How can HRS Services help?

If you’re a landlord or building owner and are concerned about the safety of your building, HRS Services can offer inspection and cladding sampling on a variety of building types, through our specialist rope access services.

Our IRATA qualified rope access team have worked with a number of local authorities and housing associations to offer reassurances to occupiers and to ensure regulatory compliance.

For more information, please contact HRS Services on 0114 201 4925.