Jun 17, 2017

Fire highlights need for building product scrutiny

Fire highlights need for building product scrutiny

The Grenfell Tower fire is a stark reminder of the dangers of allowing unsafe and non-compliant building products to be used, warns the National Fire Industry Association (NFIA).

Chief executive officer Wayne Smith said while it was important to let investigators carry out their work to determine the cause of the fire, it appeared the cladding may have fuelled this inferno.

“Early reports that cladding at Grenfell Tower is similar to that used at the Lacrosse building in Melbourne’s Docklands that was also engulfed by fire, shows the need to make sure that the products we use in our buildings must be of high quality, safe and compliant,” he said.

A survey conducted by the Victorian Building Authority last year after the Melbourne fire found that of the 170 buildings surveyed more than half contained highly flammable cladding products.

“It’s not acceptable to place the lives of residents and emergency personnel in greater danger by surrounding these building with, what are essentially, matchsticks,” Mr Smith said.

“While we don’t know the full circumstances of this latest fire tragedy, it’s important for the community to know that similar high-rise apartment buildings in Australia are generally fitted with high level fire protection such as fire sprinklers and other product which adds another layer of protection for the building’s occupants.

“In the Lacrosse building fire, the fire sprinkler system played a major part in zero lives being lost despite the non-conforming cladding product actually fuelling the fire.”

Mr Smith emphasised that in Queensland and a number of other Australian States, regular servicing of fire protection systems within high rise apartments is prescribed by legislation.

“Incidents such as Grenfell Tower and Docklands must be treated as a wake up call by government and the industry,” he said.

“As Australia’s peak fire protection body for the many contractors and qualified people that are working to deliver the best fire safety possible for the Australian community, we urge that these dodgy building products are removed and that any new products to be installed comply with Australian laws and standards.”