IN THE HUGE public outcry at the deaths of 72 people in the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the demand for safety checks on cladding in housing blocks and flats couldn’t be completely ignored.
In fact the inspections that have so far been carried out across England and Wales have revealed that it is not just the lethal cladding of the type used on Grenfell Tower that places many thousands of lives at risk.
According to a BBC investigation, post-Grenfell cladding inspections have uncovered that ‘hundreds of blocks of flats’ in England and Wales were found to have ‘missing’ or ‘faulty’ fire prevention measures.
Inspections carried out by Façade Remedial Consultants of 2,000 buildings revealed defective fire safety in 90% of them and 60% of these faults were not related to the buildings’ cladding.
The BBC reports that ‘Many owners are now finding problems with “compartmentation” – this is the way in which individual flats are supposed to be “sealed off” with barriers between cladding and outside walls to prevent fire spreading throughout the building.’
Dorian Lawrence from Façade Remedial Consultants told the BBC: ‘Post-Grenfell we’ve only really started taking cladding off buildings and taking a look behind to see what’s there.
‘The issue is the building may look fantastic on the outside with the cladding correctly fitted, but once you’ve taken the cladding off, what we uncover is quite a mess in many instances.’
He added: ‘After Grenfell everyone realised perhaps their buildings were not compliant with building regulations and found a necessity to undertake the intrusive works to make sure whether they’re compliant or not, and in the majority of cases, they are not.’
The BBC investigation found it hard to quantify the extent of the danger across the country but the scale of the defects in internal walls has emerged in London and Manchester.
London Fire Brigade revealed that 576 blocks of flats in the capital are at such a risk from fire due to defects that they need overnight fire wardens to stay awake and alert all night in case of another Grenfell tragedy.
In Manchester, the High-Rise Task Force, set up to assess fire safety in the city’s tall residential blocks, has imposed ‘interim’ safety measures including fire wardens and extra fire alarms in over 100 buildings.
Speaking about the report Gill Kernick, an expert in safety culture, said: ‘Three and a half years after Grenfell, hundreds of thousands are unsafe in their homes and many are being asked to pay extortionate bills for interim safety measures and to remediate their buildings. Until consequences are fairly borne by those responsible for developing, designing, building and maintaining unsafe buildings, there will be little imperative to change.’
Of course the building industry, the companies that rake in a fortune for ‘maintenance’ of properties, along with the giant companies that provided the cladding for Grenfell and thousands of other properties, are not going to bear any consequences.
This was made absolutely clear by the public inquiry into the Grenfell fire, which at the start of this year gave corporate witnesses total immunity from any prosecution arising from their evidence.
Since then, every week of the inquiry has heard how safety reports were doctored or falsified, how corners were cut in order to win multi-million pound contracts. None of the individuals or firms responsible for the deaths at Grenfell will be held to account or made to pay for their crimes.
Instead the cost for any remedial work to ensure safety will be picked up by the public while those who own their homes and the freehold on them are facing demands for thousands, in some cases over a hundred thousand, of pounds to tear down cladding and make changes necessary.
The inescapable fact from Grenfell and all the revelations about the death traps built on the cheap for profit, is that there can be no justice and no safety for workers under a capitalist system that places profit above the lives of workers and their families.
Only putting an end to capitalism through socialist revolution can provide for a safe future for everyone and ensure there will never be another Grenfell Tower atrocity.