Is your fire risk assessor fully accredited and suitably qualified?
Calls to regulate against the potential incompetence of people who check fire risks in buildings before the Grenfell Tower disaster were dismissed by government ministers because of an “ideological” aversion to increasing red tape, the public inquiry has heard.
Two coroners investigating earlier fire fatalities, the London fire brigade commissioner and the government’s own chief fire adviser were among experts who asked ministers to toughen scrutiny of fire risk assessors, according to testimony heard during cross-examination of Brandon Lewis, the first government minister to give evidence.
The inquiry heard ministers were urged to tighten rules on seven different occasions in the decade before the fire. It has since emerged that the fire risk assessor hired by the Grenfell Tower landlord to check the disastrous refurbishment works was not qualified to say the cladding complied with regulations.
Carl Stokes made up letters after his name to suggest professional registrations that either did not exist or he did not have. He wrongly concluded the combustible cladding was “fire rated” in a move an expert to the inquiry called “professionally reckless”.
Lewis, who was the minister responsible for fire safety from 2012 to 2014 and for fire services from July 2016 to June 2017, had been warned in writing about the competence of commercial fire risk assessors and how a lack of accreditation means “that in effect anyone can offer their services”.
The inquiry heard that a coroner investigating six deaths from the Lakanal House high-rise fire had warned ministers in 2013 to clarify uncertainty about the scope of inspections. In 2016, another coroner investigating the death of a firefighter, Stephen Hunt, found inadequate fire risk assessments contributed significantly to his death. They told the government to ensure fire risk assessors were properly trained and accredited.
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