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Grenfell: 25-year-old Harley project manager had no ongoing training

22 September 2020
Ben Bailey

The project manager appointed by cladding subcontractor Harley Curtain Wall to oversee its role on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment was just 25, did not think that he personally needed to understand the regulatory framework, and had not received training to keep him up to date with cladding industry codes of practice, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Ben Bailey, now aged 30 and the son of Harley director Ray Bailey, admitted in a Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearing yesterday that he was never given any training nor had any qualifications in relation to fire safety in the construction of buildings.

Ben Bailey said he started working for Harley “on and off” during school and university holidays. He started studying a foundation degree in motorsport engineering but ended up moving on to business and management instead. He started working on the Grenfell project in February 2015, with only a few months’ worth of experience working in a similar role on a previous project.

Ben Bailey said that he didn’t think his was an “overarching” role, but involved managing the programme, managing suppliers and directing the design in terms of what Harley needed to fulfil, as well as ensuring works were on time and to a high standard.

He added that he did not remember being involved in any aspect of whether the design or the products complied with the Building Regulations or industry standards like the CWCT standard.

Lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett QC asked Bailey: “Do I take it from what you’re telling us that you didn’t think you personally needed to understand the regulatory framework – so Building Regulations, Approved Document B and relevant industry guidance, in order to carry our your role properly as project manager?”

Ben Bailey replied that he did not. Millett asked if this meant that as project manager, Bailey could not properly inspect the installation of cavity barriers by Harley or its subcontractors without knowing the requirements of Approved Document B. But Bailey replied: “My role as project manager, as I understood it, wasn’t to be inspecting such things… An inspection, in my mind, would be carried out by an independent third party. As I explained to you, I did snagging, which I see as a separate process to inspection.”

He also confirmed that Harley did not provide him with any formal or internal competency training to keep him up to date with industry codes of practice for the design and installation of cladding and windows.

Bailey said he saw it as the role of technical manager Daniel Anketell-Jones to consider the fire performance of the materials and design of the façade for Grenfell.

Millett pointed out that in a hearing last week, Kate Grange QC asked Anketell-Jones who would be thinking about fire on the Grenfell project and Anketell-Jones replied that it “would fall on Kevin [Lamb, freelance designer] and Ben.”

Bailey said he disagreed with this assessment.

Celotex insulation discount

Millett moved on to ask Ben Bailey about what he termed the “hefty” 47.5% discount Harley obtained on the Celotex RS5000 insulation used on the project.

Bailey said he did not have any “first-hand knowledge” of how the discount was arrived at but that he was not surprised to see a discount of that magnitude. And he denied that the fact Harley could get discounts of this magnitude was something that influenced its choice of RS5000 as the insulation product for Grenfell.

Millett highlighted an internal Celotex email from an employee called Kirsty Crossley, sent in April 2015, which read: “Discussed the potential to use as a case study and Ben is happy. Thinks that Rydons will get on board also. Arrange to visit the next time in area.”

Bailey said he did not recall a meeting or the idea of a case study for the RS5000 product being “discussed specifically”.

But he then added that in general terms he did recall discussions with Celotex about Grenfell Tower being used as a case study for RS5000.

Asked if he got the impression that Grenfell was being used as a “guinea pig” for RS5000, Bailey replied: “That’s not a thought that crossed my mind.”

Turning to the classification of the product, Millett asked Bailey if he remembered seeing a document that told him that the classification for RS5000 was safe to use on buildings above 18m only applied to the system as tested and detailed in the classification report.

Bailey replied: “That’s not something I was aware of.”

Millett continued: “Were you aware in general terms that RS5000 would only comply with the Approved Document B to the Building Regulations where it was used above 18m if it was used as part of a cladding system that was exactly the same as the one the subject of the test?”

Bailey replied that he did not.

The Inquiry continues.

Comments

Where were the Local Authority Building Control in all this, this scenario as in all cases tries to load the blame further down the line and sounds like this very unqualified chap ‘Ben Bailey’ is a good target for the qualified to pass the blame onto. Did the LA have a ‘Clerk of Works’ ?
If the Architect missing something out of the contract the Client pays.
Stewart Craven. Senior Project Manager.

Stewart Craven, 22 September 2020

This disaster is a turning point for the construction industry that’s says wake up we need properly fully trained labour, trades, staff and professional’s within the industry.
We have to stop cutting cost and fees to the bone to enable the industry to function properly.
A disaster of this nature come down to serious bad management of this project,from all angles.The Lack of employing competent staff trained to do their jobs whom are able to comply with and understand with jtheir legal obligations and professional responsibilities as well as duty of care to others, when undertaking such work,speaks volumes of their employers and their attitude to providing a profession service within our industry.

W.F.Truman, 22 September 2020

It is clear from the very nature of litigation and inquiries that some people would be made ‘the fall guys’, but this isn’t really about that in my view. The crux of the problems that led to this disaster start with clients who have cost savings, or ‘project viability’ at the heart of their decision-making. I have seen the industry respond to this since the 80’s recession turned fees and cost targets upside down and based on ‘how cheaply can you do it’. Costs are key, obviously, but very few people in positions of authority take a life cycle view of costs and risk and the lowest common denominator has become de rigeur. “I can do it cheaper” will always win over “I can do it better”. Nepotism is always going to come under scrutiny too. I don’t see a ‘project manager’ as being liable for anything other than broad planning matters and reporting on progress. They could and often do have wider responsibilities, of course. The main problem here is the client – as mentioned above why no Clerk of the Works (they are needed in a low-margin, cost-led business when everyone is under cost and time pressure and liability risks). Was there an ‘independent’ RE? The architect has a duty of care but that cannot be relied upon when the brief is restricted to pre-construction. That applies to engineers too. We are years past this disaster that is a shameful condemnation of the industry and culture from government downwards, yet all anyone seems to be doing is waiting for someone to tell them what to do and arguing if anyone’s life is worth a sprinkler system in sleeping accommodation. It is.

Mike Mann, 23 September 2020

The ease with which the unqualified can stick ‘architectural’ in front of ‘designer or ‘consultant’ and claim to be offering the same service as an architect in the UK is astonishing. UK law actually states that offering an ‘architectural service, to the public ‘as an architect’ when not registered as one is illegal. Unfortunately ARB take the view that offering an architect’s service as an ‘architectural’ designer/consultant doesn’t break the law. The spirit of the law as written is clear, clever legal minds have twisted the language to give the incompetent free reign 🙂
Also, what is the point of the Grenfell Inquiry requiring all architects (already trained for 7 years at university and bound to continuous CPD by the RIBA) to undertake further competency tests when those without any (or only very limited) training / qualifications are allowed to design buildings without any legal restriction?

John Kellett, 23 September 2020