High Rise Tower Fire Checks (UK)

Update 29th August : Independent fire specialists order different fire tests – reported in Inside Housing here

Update 6th July : new fire tests are ordered on cladding. So far, tests have covered only the plastic “core” on panels similar to those used on Grenfell Tower (and all but one fire test was a failure – 190 out of 191 samples). The new process will subject a demonstration wall to a “severe fire in a flat breaking out of a window” and aim to establish whether it will then spread up the outside wall. It will also assess how different types of aluminium composite material (ACM) panels behave with different types of insulation in a fire, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said.

Update 22nd June : DCLG letter is issued to local authorities and housing authorities of immediate safety tests to be undertaken should the cladding material fail Fire tests – this letter is here

Update 16th June : a public inquiry is announced amid calls for an inquest to be held into the deaths. Scotland Yard will also conduct a criminal investigation. 

A devastating fire started last night in a high rise tower block in Kensington, West London – many of you will be watching the news reels that are covering this.

Nick Hurd, appointed yesterday as Police and Fire Minister, has announced immediate fire safety checks of similar high rise blocks. The scope of these checks is not presently clear. The instruction appears to be to Local Authorities. 

Part B of the Building Regulations 2010 (fire safety) is in the spotlight and has been with the government for review since 2016, following a devasting fire in another tower bloc in 2009 and that coroner’s report issued in 2013. The current Part B documents are here

Please remember that employers’ obligations vis a vis Fire Safety are consolidated by the Fire Safety Order (the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005), and its equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland, these are in EHS Legislation Register systems, in the various Fire Safety Registers. The Building Regulations are found in ENV Energy. I will add the Part B documents to the OHS Fire Registers for completeness.

The Building Regulations are in the spotlight because of eye witness observations of the fast speed of fire spread. 

Concerns over external cladding were raised in the UK as early as 1999, here

This post will be updated, as and when further regulatory information is available. 

Ready-Made Garment Industry (Bangladesh)

I posted in December 2013 on new standards for the ready-made garment industry.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) resources in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy are here.

“On 24 April 2013, the garment factory building “Rana Plaza” collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers and injuring 2,500. One year after the global garment industry’s worst-ever industrial accident, the ILO together with the government of Bangladesh, employers, trade unions and the international community are working together to make sure it never happens again.”

The ILO posted April 3rd 2014 clarifying its role – this post is here.

Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Industry Standards

I posted earlier on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) initiative. This post is here.

Three groups are developing fire safety standards – the Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh, which is led by mostly European retailers; the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, led by Wal-Mart Stores and Gap; and the government’s own National Tripartite Action Plan.

In November 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the International Labour Organization (ILO), technical experts from the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) came to agreement on a common, minimum criterion for fire and structural inspection safety standards, pending a few final modifications.

Information on the contribution of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety is here.

Per the review in the Wall Street Journal – “Among other things, it mandates that factory inspections must be carried out by at least two qualified inspectors with a minimum experience of five years each and a combined experience of at least 20 years. It details a “load map” that sets out the maximum number of machines allowed in a floor area. It also requires factories to install fire doors to prevent smoke entering stairwells in case of a fire, and prescribes a maximum distance of 25 meters (about 82 feet) between exits.”

Also per the Wall Street Journal – “The European accord is inspecting more than 1,600 factories, while the U.S. alliance is covering roughly 600 factories that supply its members. Bangladesh has approximately 5,000 garment factories, according to the national garment manufacturers’ association.”

Hydrocarbon Tank Cleaning Fireball

A UK company was prosecuted and heavily fined (29th October) after serious injuries were caused by safety failings in the method used by the company to clean large fuel bowsers (tanks) deployed in the aviation industry.

It seems the cleaning method required persons to climb through a manhole cover on top of six-metre-long 20,000 litre aviation fuel tanks to clean the inside by applying a highly flammable solvent to a cloth and then wiping down the walls, whilst holding a lamp.

In this instance, since the lamp inside the tank was getting hot, the person inside the tank carrying out the cleaning pulled the plug from its socket. As he did this, a spark caused the fumes to ignite and he was surrounded by flames, which were witnessed shooting into the air up to two meters above the manhole cover. The fire was so hot that it melted the visor on his mask and his protective suit, so that only the elastic from the collar and cuffs were left.

The HSE press release states the person suffered multiple burns over most of his body, including his arms, legs and face; his hair and eyebrows were burnt off; and his lips badly burnt. He was in hospital for three months and is now almost totally paralysed.

The investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the method of cleaning the fuel tanks with a highly flammable solvent had been used since 2007 (the incident took place in 2011), but the company had failed to carry out any kind of risk assessment. In addition, there was no supervision of workers or monitoring of the fumes inside the tank, and the masks and lighting provided were entirely unsuitable. Workers also had to take it in turns to clean each tank as the build-up of fumes from the solvent made them feel sick.

The day after the incident, the company decided it did not need to use a solvent to clean the fuel tank and instead used soapy water.

Information on preventing workplace fires and explosions is available at www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion.

Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Industry Major Safety Initiative (ILO)

DHAKA – The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) and the International Labour Organization today launched a major initiative – including a new Better Work programme – aimed at improving working conditions in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh.

The three-and-a-half year initiative, ‘Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector’ – (RMGP) focuses on minimizing the threat of fire and building collapse in ready-made garment factories and on ensuring the rights and safety of workers.

It has been developed in collaboration with government, employers’ and workers’ representatives, in response to a number of industrial accidents in the sector, including the Rana Plaza building collapse in April, in which more than 1,100 workers died.

The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are jointly contributing US$15 million to the US$24.21 million programme. The ILO is mobilizing further resources.

The RMG programme will provide technical support to building and fire safety assessments; strengthen and support labour, fire and building inspections; build occupational safety and health awareness, capacity and systems and provide rehabilitation and skills training for the victims of Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions, where 112 workers died in a fire in November 2012.

It compliments other initiatives to improve safety in RMG factories such as the Sustainability Compact adopted by the European Union, Bangladesh Government and the United States, and supported by the ILO; the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which comprises global unions, brands and retailers, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which brings together North American retailers and brands.

As part of the new programme, the ILO and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) also announced the launch of a Better Work programme in Bangladesh. This will complement the RMG programme by implementing factory-level activities to improve compliance with national labour laws and respect for international core labour standards, while promoting the competitiveness of participating factories.

Better Work Bangladesh will be funded by the governments of Switzerland and the United States, and through the RMG programme by the governments of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The Better Work global programme is funded by the governments of Australia, the Netherlands and Switzerland.