The government has rejected key recommendations from a coroner to amend building regulations in order to make tower blocks safer in the event of a fire.
Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman wrote to communities secretary Eric Pickles and housing minister Mark Prisk in February with a series of recommendations following the deaths of firefighters Alan Bannon and James Shears in the city’s Shirley Towers block in April 2010.
Mr Wiseman said building regulations should be changed to ensure brackets and clasps holding cables in place – such as those supplying power to smoke alarms or internet access – are fire-resistant. In the Shirley Towers incident, clasps holding domestic wiring in place in ceiling voids melted and the wires fell inside the flat, making escape difficult.
Mr Wiseman added that landlords should have to provide signs to indicate flat numbers and emergency exits in high-rise buildings at low-levels in corridors to increase visibility in smoky conditions. This could be done by changing part of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (2005), his letter stated.
But a response from Peter Holland, chief fire and rescue advisor to the Communities and Local Government department, said there were ‘no plans to make the use of heat-resistant cable clips in electrical installations a requirement of building regulations’.
Officials have, however, raised the matter with the Institute of Engineering and Technology and British Standards Institute, which are responsible for a specific British standard for electrical installations, which building regulations say all electrical work must meet. An IET and BSI committee is now ‘considering the issue’, his letter stated.
He also said there will be no requirements for specific signage to be placed in tower blocks. The government believes current regulations place ‘responsibility for compliance where it belongs – with employers and building owners’, he added.