While the focus following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy has on been on safety in residential buildings, the British TUC has also called for high-rise workplaces to be tested and safety organisations, including IOSH, have called for an end to health and safety deregulation.
Here in Ireland the work-related aspect of the tragedy – in which at least 79 people lost their lives – has been alluded to by the new Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, who reminded the owners of buildings (other than dwellings), of their responsibilities under section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 (see Table below).
Minister Murphy said that in order to assist those who hold responsibility, consideration is being given to the publication of a guide on undertaking fire risk assessments under section 18(6)[a] (see Table).
While Minister Murphy’s statement concentrated on residential premises over 18 metres (six stories) high, his reference to section 18 reminds prudent employers, owners or occupiers of a business premises six storeys’ high or over to consider the fire risks in their premises. Indeed the tragedy should act as a reminder to all employers occupying any type of business premises to review their fire safety arrangements.
In the UK, the TUC has welcomed the Government’s announcement that following the Grenfell Tower fire, cladding on hospitals and schools will be tested for safety. However, they have expressed concern that the Government has not given any guidance to employers who may have staff working in high-rise buildings.
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said workers need reassurance about their safety and if there is any risk to them, there must be immediate action. She said the Government should give advice to employers on how to ensure buildings are safe. The advice should include information on types of cladding and insulation materials which may be dangerous, how to get samples tested and what remedial action should be taken if their cladding fails safety tests.
IOSH JOINS CALL TO END DEREGULATION
IOSH is among over 70 organisations who have, following the Grenfell Tower fire, written to British Prime Minister, Theresa May, calling on her to scrap the British Government’s approach to deregulation.
In the letter, which is also signed by RoSPA and the British Safety Council, the organisations tell Prime Minister May that she has the power to immediately remove a further risk to people at work. The organisations say the disaster marks a turning point for improved fire safety awareness and a wider appreciation that good health and safety is an investment, not a cost.
The Fire Brigades Union, in a statement expressing its solidarity with the residents of Grenfell Tower, states that at the height of the incident, 250 firefighters were on the scene. That figure on its own shows that the fire, as well as being a public housing disaster, was also a very significant workplace incident.