The Grenfell Tower tragedy, to be put bluntly, was caused solely by a lack of care and attention to health and safety regulations. The residents of the tower had been noticing, actively complaining, and protesting this absence of attention. In fact, in 2013 they claimed that they would only have one, restricted road for emergency vehicle access after shutting down the car park. During the fire, eye witnesses claimed that this slowed down the fire engine response. The residents also wrote about continuous electrical surges which had been causing fire hazards in the building. Finally, and most eerily, in 2016 residents wrote that ‘a serious fire in the tower block’ would be the only way they could bring the company managing the building ‘to justice.’
The building had only one escape route, boilers and gas pipes were left bare in living rooms and kitchens, there was no building-wide fire alarm or sprinkler system, piles of rubbish were being left outside, blocking exits, fire safety equipment had not been tested for 12 months, there was a lack of fire extinguishers, and the list unfortunately goes on. The newly installed cladding system was a cheaper, more flammable option. It was not installed with fire safety in mind, but it was instead an economic decision. Many residents of the area claim that the whole renovation the building underwent was mainly due to the fact that it was an eyesore for the wealthier residents. Since that was the motive, safety was not kept in mind.
The Health and Safety Executive have strict and clear gas health and safety regulation, yet these are often overlooked. “I don’t think we have seen this sort of fire in the UK before,” said Mike Penning, former fire minister in David Cameron’s government. “We have to check if the existing regulations have been adhered to and it looks to me, from a distance, that that may not be the case.” On the contrary, Rydon, the contractor for the refurbishment, said it “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”
There were constant plans to test fire safety equipment and to replace some of the gas pipes, but the council never put forth any actions despite all of the complaints from the towers’ residents. Health and safety regulations must be met, ensured, and checked constantly. Hopefully, this dreadful occurrence allows for more care to be taken in the future and sends the message that all buildings and homes need to be checked. The horrific fire was anticipated and, most disturbingly, avoidable had those who were supposed to inspect that the building met the gas compliant health and safety regulations done it.