Sunday, 29 April 2018

Grenfell Tower: insurers miss the target, give UKGov ammo to cover-up the EU's unfit-for-purpose fire safety standard EN13501

Reported by the BBC, the Association of British Insurers ("ABI") have commissioned the deployment of fire tests to submit findings to the Hackitt Review.  The ABI claims the tests are insufficient to reflect the real world.

Prima facie, this sounds like really good news.

But it's not.

The Hackitt Review is not the Grenfell Tower Inquiry chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick.  On the contrary, UKGov commissioned the Hackitt Review to examine fire safety standards following the Grenfell Tower fire.  As such, the Hackitt Review can only be a diversionary or whitewashing exercise, whose primary political objective must be to hold the European Union harmless.

The ABI's submission to the Hackitt Review could be a worth contribution to the overall development of half-decent fire safety standards, but the real political use of the ABI's submission is to deflect blame away from the mandatory fire-material testing standard.

It turns out that the Fire Protection Association ("FPA") tested BS8414, the fire-system test, and found that the system test was inadequate.

The ABI then wrongly re-interpreted (mis-interpreted?) this as a fire-material test, a (deliberate?) error which, of course, the BBC naturally parroted with neither challenge nor correction.  Worse, the ABI then referred to the tested BS8414 as the "official testing regime".

Neither ABI nor FPA mentioned EN13501 anywhere.  EN13501 is a fire-material test and it is also the official fire test, as mandated by the European Union (Commission Decision 2000/367/EC implementing Council Decision 89/106/EEC, with EEA relevance; alternative location).

BS8414 is not an official test, merely a suggested test by a well-meaning organisation.  Sure, it can be developed and improved.  But it's hardly relevant to identifying the core issue, which is that EN13501 isn't fit for purpose.

Quite what the ABI thinks its doing is a mystery.  But its submission to the Hackitt Review is, at best, deeply gullible & na├»ve, or, at worst, a wilful participant in the corrupt cover-up of unfit-for-purpose European regulations.

Report by the Fire Protection Association to the ABI.
ABI's full submission to the Hackitt Review.


Email to UKGov via 29Apr2018 13:43.

Dear Sirs

Having reviewed the interim Hackett Report, I am concerned that the Government might seek to misdirect policy choices, or engage in a cover-up of unfit-for-purpose European Regulation.

Whatever improvements might be done to British standards, the root cause is that European standards are both i) mandatory; and ii) unfit-for-purpose (because they are fire-material tests).  The European Standard is EN13501.  It is mandatory for all members of the EEA.  Links below.

Better standards would be fire-systems tests, e.g. BS8414.  But these are not mandatory.  Under a common-law system, landlords would prefer not to commission a test under BS8414, just in case it contradicts the misleading findings of EN13501.  It's the difference between "whitewashed, tick-box approval" and the murkier business of "duty-of-care".

I am also slightly concerned that a press release by the Association of British Insurers gives the misleading impression that the unofficial standard BS8414 is somehow the official standard, replacing the mandatory EN13501.  It could just be the ABI's press department mis-representing the issue because of press department's own ignorance of how the world works.  But the ABI's actual submission gives me no confidence that the ABI understand enough about the sources of legal obligations whose risks the ABI's members would typically cover.  Section 19 ("international comparisons") seems breathtakingly short, substantially missing the elephant in the room that is EN13501.

I am also concerned about continued conflation about "building standards" and "fire safety standards".  These two types of standards do interface, but they are nevertheless distinct.  The confusion is akin to the same conflation about "customs unions" and "phytosanitary standards" in the wider debate about post-Brexit trade with the EEA.

Before the Hackitt Review is finalised, please arrange to find somebody who understands EN13501 and its related European Regulation to proof-read the report.

If you have any queries, please ask.

Interim Hackitt Report:
ABI press release:
FPA report on fire testing under BS8414 commissioned by ABI:
ABI submission to Hackitt:
European regulation binding in the UK that mandates EN13501 ("2000/367/EC: Commission Decision of 3 May 2000 implementing Council Directive 89/106/EEC")
i) (formatting errors!)

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