Construction fire safety knowledge ‘inadequate’ post Grenfell

Construction fire safety knowledge ‘inadequate’ post Grenfell

A STUDY undertaken on the construction industry has found that a third of sector professionals believe construction still has ‘inadequate’ knowledge and training related to fire safety.

PBC Today reported on the survey undertaken by Birmingham City University quantity surveying student Iman Farah Mohamed, which studied construction industry views on fire safety post Grenfell. The study surveyed ‘dozens’ of people in construction professions and one expert ‘directly involved’ in the Grenfell inquiry, and was published in the International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation.

The study found that a third of construction professionals believe that the industry still has ‘inadequate’ knowledge and training ‘surrounding fire safety’ two and a half years after the June 2017 fire. In turn, the majority believed that higher education institutions ‘need to do more to educate’ students in construction on fire safety before they ‘enter the sector’, while concerns were also raised around fire evacuation procedures in UK hospitals.

Other findings from the study included an ‘increased awareness’ of fire safety concerns post Grenfell, and that many of the current fire safety regulations are ‘not fit for purpose’, with 37% believing that industry knowledge was ‘inadequate’, and only 28% believing university courses provide ‘sufficient’ education on fireproofing buildings.

Half of respondents thought communication between residents and developers on fire safety ‘should be formalised’, while respondents were also ‘conflicted’ about whether race and class ‘played a role’ in ‘allowing the neglect’ that led to Grenfell. Specific roles were suggested to be ‘dedicated to fire safety’, or existing staff members be ‘given the issue as a key responsibility’.

Respondents also recommended that the aforementioned higher education institutions should ‘encompass’ fire safety training in courses to better ‘ensure’ that the next generation in construction ‘have the skills needed to prevent future disasters from happening’. One respondent said that these institutions have ‘drifted from equipping students with detailed knowledge’, and ‘now just focus on making money’, with standards ‘now severely compromised’ as a result because ‘there are many students entering the industry without knowledge’.

This, they added, ‘explains the poor selection and compromise on building materials. Gone are the years of durability and safety. It’s all money’. Recommendations included that specialised training ‘be made available’ across the sector; that lecturers and specialist practitioners – such as fire safety engineers – ‘form part of higher education construction courses; and that new regulations should be introduced to ‘protect against future disasters based on building materials or practices’.

Finally, funding should be ‘made available’ to ensure professionals are equipped with ‘the knowledge they need’. Mr Mohamed stated: ‘The research showed that there remains some concern in the construction industry around the knowledge and training provided in relation to fire safety.

‘Grenfell was a major incident which brought the issue to the front of people’s minds, but while the awareness in the industry has increased, most professionals want to see more from the sector and higher education providers to prioritise fire safety. The recommendations suggest how we can make sure professionals of the future are equipped with the knowledge they need to prevent a tragedy like this in the future, and that regulations and guidelines are updated to add a much-needed extra layer of protection.’