Don't knock health and safety after Grenfell Tower disaster

Next time someone uses the term “health and safety gone mad”, remember Grenfell Tower.

Red tape may be a pain for profits. But red tape beats the sticking plaster approach which led to the deaths of at least 79 people.

The tower block fire was a week ago. But I cannot be the only one who is haunted by it.

The desperate phone calls from children who knew they were going to die – with one little girl screaming to her mum: “Come and get me.”

The neighbours who watched helpless as families screamed from upper floor windows.

A blog from an anonymous firefighter has told how he had to choose between two households needing rescued – if he had taken them both, all would have perished.

This is the sort of disaster we expect in the dysfunctional, disorganised parts of what we used to call the Third World.

This is the richest borough, in the richest city, in one of the richest countries on the planet.

It was in January 2012 that David Cameron said his government’s New Year resolution was to “kill off the health and safety culture for good …get a lot of this pointless time-wasting out of the British economy and British life once and for all”.

In February, the Government boasted of achieving that claim.

Fire safety inspections had been reduced for some companies from six hours to just 45 minutes.

One of the worst responses to the fire came from Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff.

He was filmed refusing to answer questions about why – as a minister – he sat on a fire safety review into building regulations carried out after a deadly fire at another London tower block in 2009.

A promise was made to learn lessons and change regulations. But promises were broken because regulations = red tape = pointless time-wasting.

Read the rest of my column here.


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