June’s Grenfell Tower fire has marked a new low point in public safety in the UK. It is deeply saddening, and utterly confounding, that such a tragedy could happen in a country that often prides itself in - and even excels at - safety in so many other parts of society. What happened at Grenfell Tower is the exact opposite of what this country needs to stand for.
The ECA has considered its response to the Grenfell Tower fire very carefully. It seems that there is something inherently wrong with how the safety of tenants has been regarded up to now, at the highest levels. ‘Deregulation’ has long been applied by various governments with a very broad brush, mainly with a view to reducing burdens on business, or cost to the public purse. Some practitioners referred a long-standing view in parts of government that tenant safety could be subjected to tacit deregulation and low levels of enforcement, on the basis that there had been no significant loss of life.
Clearly, any such view can no longer be tolerated - deregulation at the expense of public safety is a derogation of the most basic responsibility placed upon any nation, which is to protect its population. Quite simply, Government should be able to distinguish between deregulation that is justified and helpful to the economy, and deregulation that involves danger to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Both the ECA and FSA will be advising government that, in tenanted accommodation in particular, electrical and fire safety must not be left to chance, or even simply to market forces. In the context of public safety, electrical and other engineering issues that need to be fit for purpose include:
· The competence of those who carry out the work
· Power quality
· Cable quality and suitability
· Fire detection and alarms
· Emergency lighting, and
· The regime for electrical testing.
If competencies or standards need to be improved to ensure the safety of those in multi-tenant premises, we will press for the necessary regulatory changes. We also expect policy makers and regulators to reconsider their approach to the balance between public safety and regulation.