The other day I wrote how the resumption of the Grenfell Inquiry would be one of the moments of the year. Well, an offshoot of that inquiry has come back into focus this week as it has been revealed that at least 25,000 fire doors fitted into social housing are the very ones used in the Grenfell Tower and that failed to meet the minimum standards.
The fire door industry has been in crisis ever since the disaster. Reports from the inquiry seem only to deepen the problems further.
Freedom Of Information
An article on the UK version of the Huffington Post says that after sending 123 FOI requests to various councils, the results showed that at least 25,000 fire doors of the type that were in the Grenfell building were still in use across many councils around the UK. You can read the full Huffington Post article by clicking here.
Why are they still in use you ask? Apparently, it is down to confusion at a local level and that councils are unaware of what alternatives to use and are still waiting on official guidance from Government. I find this staggering if this is the case, as we are a great deal further down the road from the disaster, yet there appears to be a lack of clear information to tell councils on how to proceed to rectify the situation.
We’re not just talking a single brand of fire door here. If you read the Huff article, there’s several well known brands of door within the 25,000 doors that are still being used in social housing. I suspect the actual number may well be higher than the 25,000 stated. The article states that in council responses, they admit that they don’t keep records on the types of doors that have been installed.
There are many questions I have. Too many to state in a single post on here. But one of them would be how did these products make it to market? Presumably they would have had to go through rigorous testing given the nature of the product before being able to be sold. If these doors did indeed pass, then is it not time to look at the testing process itself? Could a faulty testing process have let these products on to the market when they shouldn’t have? Is this even an area of industry that is under investigation? If not, it should be.
Obviously these doors have to be replaced. Councils would have ordered them as fire doors, and they have failed, so as far as I see it, they are the ones responsible. The door manufacturers themselves are likely to pick up some of the bill too, although I imagine a lot of the cost will come from the councils.
What I would hope is that these costs are taken on the chin and are not passed down to tax payers in higher council taxes. The system has let down all those who are living in social housing, who at this moment in time must still be looking at their homes and wondering if what has been installed could actually keep them safe in the worst case scenario.
In that respect, it is the home owner who pays. Pays through stress, worry and frustration. Having to live in a home in which they though was up to code, but will now be reading reports and questioning everything.
Industry in crisis
The word crisis is used every day in modern society. But this is where I think it truly applies. Since the Grenfell Tower disaster, the fire door industry has been in chaos. Contracts have been suspended or cancelled. Suppliers have had to replace countless numbers of doors, with thousands more yet to get. It will have cost jobs and revenue. This latest report is only going to add further work and costs to the pile.
Away from the financial implications, we have to take a serious look at this area of the industry. We have to take a long hard look at testing standards, production methods, the materials used. If so many doors are failing and exposing residents to extreme danger, then surely it’s now time to suspend this whole area of door production and sales until we are sure that all companies and suppliers making and selling fire doors can 100% be proven to be worthy? It’s a dramatic step I know, and would be costly to the industry, but when we’re talking about people’s lives and homes, this has to be put to the front of the line.
I really do think it might now be time to tear it all down and start again. New tougher legislation when it comes to materials used and qualified installation of fire doors. A far better testing process of the product before it comes to market. The whole supply chain needs to be looked at as far as I’m concerned.
When it comes to this latest report, 25,000 doors is a lot, but is likely to be more. Will they all be replaced? Perhaps eventually. But there’s going to be a lot of discussions between councils and suppliers as to who should ultimately pay for these doors, which will mean the process of changing them is likely to be a long one. So once again, it is residents who are the ones who will have to sit tight and hope for the best. Both Government and industry are going to find themselves in a very poor position once the main inquiry starts up again at the end of this year.
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