Police Investigating Whether LFB Breached Safety Law Over ‘Stay Put’ Policy at Grenfell
- Date: Wednesday 20th June 2018
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The London Fire Brigade (LFB) could be charged with health and safety offences after it told Grenfell Tower residents to remain in their flats while firefighters tackled the blaze. Known as the “stay put” policy, the strategy requires occupants to wait in their homes unless they are directly affected by fire or smoke.
However, chartered fire engineer and expert witness Dr Barbara Lane told the Grenfell Tower public inquiry that although the principles of the stay put regime had “substantially failed” by 1.26am, the LBF did not abandon the policy until 2.47am – more than 80 minutes later. At that time 107 occupants were still inside the building and more than 70 were killed as the fire continued to spread throughout the 24-storey block. The inquiry was told that firefighters had no “obvious and safe alternative strategy” than ordering residents not to leave during the fire.
In their opening statements, the LFB, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Fire Officers Association (FOA) clarified that the stay put policy was stipulated in the building’s evacuation procedures and is not set by the fire service, adding: “Simultaneous evacuation of residents in the event of fire is not factored into the design of buildings such as Grenfell Tower. That is evident from the fact that there is no common fire alarm and the only means of escape was a single stairwell. The stay-put policy is therefore a building design principle and not a creation of the fire service. It’s clear there is a huge concern over the continued application of ‘stay put unless’ once compartmentation had been breached, but there remains no obvious and safe alternative strategy – certainly no detailed plan or training for one.”
The FBU invited the inquiry to consider what alternative strategy might have been implemented and whether, on the night and without any such procedure or training, the early incident commanders could or could not reasonably have moved to an immediate or phased evacuation at an early stage of the fire development.
The Metropolitan Police stated: “The LFB would, as any other organisation involved, have an obligation to conduct their activities in a manner that doesn’t place people at risk. It’s an absolute obligation on us to be looking at the most serious potential criminal offences that may have been committed.” Any charges would most likely be brought under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act for putting the public at risk.
Kensington and Chelsea Council and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which managed the tower block, are already under investigation by the police for corporate manslaughter.
Source: IOSH Magazine