To recommend or not!

21Jun2017

The recent fire in the Grenfell tower block was a dreadful incident, with many issues requiring the scrutiny of the investigators. 

The most significant ‘accusation’ levelled at the authorities, was their apparent disregard of the many warnings they received prior to the incident, particularly from residents’ associations.

The BBC were at the forefront of this criticism with a piece on the news the following day, where they quoted the reports on similar events which included a particular recommendation to ‘fit sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings’.  It appears these recommendations, made on many occasions, have been ignored.  Why?  There are many reasons given, some of which seem reasonable, but one suspects that in some cases it was simply an issue of affordability, coupled with a false sense of security that other systems embedded in the design of the building would contain any fire.

Looking at similar events is a key feature of the Kelvin TOP-SET system.  For those who know our acronym, the S in TOP-SET stands for ‘Similar events’.  All investigators are required to look at the history of similar events both in the company concerned and in the world at large.

But the reason for writing is related to a little-known fact:  some companies have a policy of NOT wishing their incident reports to include recommendations.  Putting it in simple language, “Tell us what went wrong; don’t tell us how to fix it; we’ll decide what to do”.   It might seem odd to commission an investigation where the Terms of Reference specifically excludes recommendations, but one of the reasons is clear to see, when we consider the Grenfell fire:  if a series of investigations all recommend a particular course of action, and a company or authority chooses to ignore these recommendations, then when the incident occurs again, they are in a much more difficult position in terms of ‘blame’, ‘accountability’ and subsequent litigation. If all the previous investigations on high-rise fires did not include a list of recommendations, then the accusation that the local authorities ignored previous warnings could not have been made. 

Is this a good thing?  We leave that to you to decide!

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