IFSM chair criticises government panel

IFSM chair criticises government panel

DR BOB Docherty, chair of the Institute of Fire Safety Managers (IFSM), called on the government to ‘revisit’ the members of its expert panel on fire, and consult the sector ‘more fully’ on advice given.

Inside Housing reported on the criticisms from Dr Docherty in an email to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, in which he called the process of issuing advice ‘totally bemusing’, and said that the government should ‘consult more’ with the fire safety sector, while it should also ‘revisit’ the members of its expert panel. This panels was set up in June 2017 to advise on ‘immediate safety action’ as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The panel, chaired by Sir Ken Knight, was initially made up of former Building Research Establishment (BRE) chief executive Dr Peter Bonfield, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Roy Wilsher, and Amanda Clack, president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Both Ms Clack and Dr Bonfield have left that panel, and have been replaced by consultant Ann Bentley and Professor Colin Bailey from Queen Mary, University of London.

The news outlet also noted that Sir Ken ‘has been criticised for his role’, after having signed a certificate in 2012 ‘saying cladding with the same rating as Grenfell could be used on high rises’, while a company ‘he was linked to advised on the tower’s refurbishment’. He had also written to the government to call for limits on ‘its proposed ban on combustible materials’ to just the aluminium composite material (ACM) used on Grenfell.

He added that this would ‘still enable’ combustible insulation to be used ‘if it passed large-scale tests’. Dr Docherty also criticised an advice note given to owners of buildings partially clad in ACM that had said some had been told ‘it was safe to leave partial amounts of ACM on their buildings and that it was the expert panel’s view that this was not true’, and all ACM should be removed.

He stated that this ‘contradicted’ the building regulations, and told Inside Housing: ‘What I can’t get to grips with is that they keep firing these advice notes out, seemingly firing from the hip. A more reasoned approach would be to gather a group from the fire industry and give them a time limit – say six months – and get them to rewrite, add and update Approved Document B.’

His letter read: ‘I think you really need to revisit who is on your “independent expert advisory panel” and maybe take advice from the experts who are “out there” working in the field, either through contacts with individuals, professional bodies or the Fire Sector Federation. Does no one in your department check with the real industry before these notes go out? I just find the whole content of the note and the process of issue totally bemusing.’