At last, some positive news surrounding the investigations into the Grenfell Tower disaster – Dame Judith Hackitt, former chair of the HSE, is to chair an enquiry into the Building Regulations, for details see http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2017/07/28/building-regulations-to-be-reviewed-in-wake-of-grenfell/ .
The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower has many hallmarks of a Major Accident in the chemical industry, and it is to be hoped that the Process Safety expertise which sits within the HSE and the chemical, oil and gas and process industries can be used in the investigations around the fire, and particularly in helping the construction industry understand how incidents can occur and help prevent these types of incident in the future.
In particular, one key aspect to the Grenfell Tower fire is how the fire spread from inside the building to the cladding outside. As there are usually two to three fires a day in tower blocks in London, it is unlikely that the Grenfell Tower fire was the first in a building with flammable cladding, so the key question should be how did it get outside if others did not? and are there any recommendations to prevent this happening while residents wait for the flammable cladding to be removed from their building? (While Dame Judith may not be in charge of investigating the causes of the fire, it is to be hoped that those who are doing this investigation have made this a top priority).
Another aspect is the fact that the cladding tests were carried out on individual materials, and not in the actual combinations as used on the buildings. It would be good if these types of combination tests can be carried out on building materials in future (in the same way that we consider how process plant operates as a whole, rather than looking at e.g. tanks or pipework in isolation).
We wish Dame Judith well in her Enquiry into Building Regulations, and hope that this leads to improvements in the safety of buildings in the future.