Grenfell Tower’s fire safety engineering 'entirely inadequate', expert tells inquiry

Video report by ITV News London Correspondent Rags Martel

Grenfell Tower’s fire safety engineering was “entirely inadequate”, the inquiry into the devastating fire has heard.

Expert Dr Barbara Lane said Grenfell was a reflection of wider problems in the building industry, with the construction industry” guilty of “forgetting” about the responsibilities of “protecting people”.

Fire consultants Exova's two hour visit to the Tower to make their assessment was “wholly insufficient”, Dr Lane said. Giving evidence on Wednesday, the fire engineering and safety specialist Dr Lane was reminded of an internal email between staff at fire safety engineers Exova, which described the proposals as worsening the already “not great” fire safety conditions in the 24-storey block.

The note read: “I have told (the architect) we can massage the proposal to something acceptable.”

It went on: “They are making an existing crap condition worse so it’s a matter of working the worse bits out and making the new stuff work.”

The email added: “No sprinklers wanted.”

In her report to the inquiry, Dr Lane had asserted “there is no justification for ‘making an existing crap condition worse'”.

She described the role of a fire safety engineer as “responsible for assessing the risk to life and formulating a package of measures to protect life”.

When pushed further by inquiry lawyer Kate Grange QC as to whether she thought Exova staff should have made other parties on the refurbishment aware of their thoughts, Dr Lane added: “Yes, I do.”

Further in her report, Dr Lane said the attitude demonstrated in the Exova email “reflects a culture and behaviour I have experienced and observed elsewhere in the construction industry through my own professional work”.

Expanding in her oral evidence, Dr Lane said: “I think for me, fire safety engineering is about protecting people.

“It’s a massive responsibility, I used the word scary earlier and I mean that most sincerely.

“When you forget that and you get caught up in the game of making things work getting things through, you forget about your primary responsibilities which is protecting people.”

She went on: “That has been a problem in the construction industry based on my own experience, I don’t just mean fire safety engineering professionals, I want to make that clear.

“We’re one role in a whole scheme of people who have duties ultimately to build things properly … to protect people in the event of a fire.”

She added: “The ultimate purpose is to protect human beings.”

Dr Lane is one of a number of expert witnesses instructed by the inquiry.

She will continue her evidence when the hearings open again on Thursday.