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Grenfell: Rydon manager ‘assumed’ windows had fire-resistant seal

31 July 2020

A site manager working on the internals at Grenfell Tower assumed that a paper and foil material installed by subcontractors between window units and internal sills in the building was a fire resistant barrier, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Gary Martin, who worked on the project between 31 July 2015 and 18 March 2016, before leaving the company in 2018, said in his written witness statement that SD Plastering were “fitting a fire resistant seal between the window unit and internal sill as well as installing the UPVC”.

Counsel to the Inquiry Kate Grange QC asked Martin to point out the seal in a photo (pictured below) in expert Dr Barbara Lane’s report of a window in the tower with the uPVC trim removed and asked him to indicate where the fire-resistant seal would have been.

Martin said: “It would have gone from the uPVC window on that little ledge inside right the way through to the front of the opening actually inside the flat…So it was a complete barrier all the way round.”

He added that he assumed the paper and foil material was “some kind of fire delay and smoke deterrent”. Asked why he believed that to be the case, he said: “It had to be there for a reason, otherwise we wouldn’t have put it in.”

Grange told Martin that experts found that the material with a foil face around the window was combustible insulation, sometimes branded Celotex and sometimes Kingspan. She asked: “Do you agree, looking at this now, that what you thought was a fire resistant seal or a fire barrier was actually that combustible product?”

Martin replied: “Yes.”

She added: “I think we’ve established earlier that your evidence in your statement that it was a fire-resistant seal or a fire barrier was merely an assumption you made….But nobody actually told you that on site. Is that correct?”

Martin replied: “I don’t recall being told anything like that.”

Internal window reveals inspection

Martin confirmed that he was responsible for inspecting the internal window reveals before the uPVC was installed to make sure that the barrier was in place, looking for any gaps and making sure it was fitted correctly.

Grange asked why Martin was looking for gaps. He replied: “Because I had been told to look out for gaps. Just to make sure that the work was done completely.”

Grange continued: “Does it follow from your answers that you didn’t ever check for yourself whether the placing of this insulation board was compliant with the Building Regulations or any other industry guidance?”

Martin said: “No, I didn’t, because it had already been started and I just took over the role.”

The Inquiry continues, after a break in August, resuming on 7 September.

Comments

As an observation, it remains surely the Employers responsibility to ensure an appropriate handover takes place whenever practicable when supervisory staff commence or leave a specific role. Assumption is hardly a defence for an experienced and competent person to maintain.
Furthermore, where were Building Control to oversee Building Regulation compliance and/ or raise concerns to the Supervising Officer either to the former or newly appointed Supervisor?
This surely is the hub of further questions to both contractor and the Local Authority/ Enforcement Agency.

Stephen Parker, 3 August 2020