Spotlight on… Grenfell Tower Inquiry: “every death was avoidable”

Read Time: 7 minutes

Spotlight on… Grenfell Tower Inquiry: “every death was avoidable” (abbreviated, see below)

The following is from “Overarching Statements and Module 7 Closing Statements 10 November 2022”. See end for quick links.

A fortnight ago in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry closing statements, Richard Millett, KC, Lead Counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, said

“there was nothing unknown or not reasonably knowable which caused or contributed to the fire and its consequences. On the contrary, each and every one of the risks which eventuated at Grenfell Tower on that night were well known by many and ought to have been known by all who had any part to play”


72 lives lost. Reason known.

Only that we have to wait until next year for “Inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick and the panel [to] decide who was to blame”, as reported in Construction Management’s Construction’s ‘long run-up of incompetence’ article. After this, CM says “the Met Police may begin criminal proceedings”.

“72 lives lost. Reason known” isn’t exactly the same thing as what Richard Millet effectively said i.e. 72 lives lost for no unknown reason, but two negatives do cancel, and when the event is so unspeakably tragic, we need to ‘call a spade a spade’. We trust that, in time, the Inquiry will do such.

If you have been following the Inquiry you will know how extensively this has played out and how keenly justice is awaited. However, what is the most critical reason for knowing the root cause/s accurately? Is it not to stop another Grenfell happening in 5 or 10 years’ time?

Next Grenfell. Where and when?

It is very unlikely it will be at Grenfell.

The ‘next Grenfell’ will most likely be in a different place with different products and different people and at a different time. But will it be the same root cause?

Richard Millet, KC, went on to say “behind all of these discrete factors there lay complex, opaque, and piecemeal legislation, and a over-reliance by law and policymakers on guidance, some of which – including the statutory guidance – was ambiguous, dangerously out of date, and much of which was created by non-governmental bodies and influenced by commercial interests’.

“dangerously out of date [guidance],… influenced by commercial interests”

Sounds shocking for a root cause of a tragedy that claimed the lives of 72 people. In the UK. In the 21st century. You could even say, in London. As close to the heart of our country, government, and standards-setting bodies as you can get, and with the best-run, best-funded systems and processes of control and safety that we have. Or so you could reasonably think.

Whichever way we look at it, it should never be able to be said about fire safety-related guidance that it is “dangerously out of date,… influenced by commercial interests” . Never.

So just how prevalent in the fire industry is “dangerously out of date [guidance]… influenced by commercial interests”?

Out of date

Looking at BS 9999:2017 we see how easily guidance can become outdated and continue to be dangerously referred to. As an example, this widely used ‘Code of Practice’ titled “Fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings” states that “fire curtain barriers, [should] conform to BS 8524”.

If you are familiar with the Whitepaper – fire curtain regulations in the UK that we recently published, you will know that BS 8524 is no longer supported by currently maintained 3rd party certification which, thinking ‘for safety’ (as opposed to ‘for profit’), is mandatory for life safety products.

As such BS 8524 cannot be considered a safe option for the consumer, at least until it has currently maintained 3rd party certification by a UKAS* accredited Certification Body.

The definition of ‘out of date’ in the context of standards could be varied but I would go as far as to say that any standard without currently maintained 3rd party certification from a UKAS* accredited Certification Body is ‘out of date’. It isn’t safe to rely on.

Yet, BS 9999 continues to point consumers to BS 8524.

What the fire industry leans on

The extent to which the fire industry leans on documents like BS 9999 was illustrated to us recently when a fire engineer told us “if BS 9999 says that is what to do then that is what I am going to do”.

This becomes a danger if BS 9999 is an example of a guidance document that is in any part out of date and/ or influenced by commercial interest or non-governmental bodies (entities acting for profit).

We all know that commercial interest should play no role in anyone deciding which standards are safe and to be recommended. And we can all have opinions but no one knows better about the certificate-worthiness of a standard than Warrington Fire or IFC (the Certification Bodies that are regulated by UKAS). These have both pulled out of BS 8524, and no longer have the resource to maintain existing certificates.

Solution. For this one tiny part of the industry

hankfully there is an alternative to BS 8524 in BS EN 16034. This is a widely known and long established certification, available from all the largest and most reputable Certification Bodies in the UK and Europe. Further, BS EN 16034 is the only standard for fire curtains that is harmonised and can therefore be CE Marked with 3rd party certification. This is essential for guaranteeing a product’s conformity and your safety.

Don’t take the ‘for profit’ manufacturer’s word for it. We owe it to Grenfell to double down on fire safety.

You can insist on fire safety with 3rd party certification that is currently maintained by a UKAS* Certification Body, and CE Marking.

The importance of UKAS accreditation for Certification Bodies cannot be overstated. If you go on the UKAS website you will see their mission is “A world of confidence. Creating confidence in the products and services we all rely upon”. They go on to tell us “UKAS is the National Accreditation Body for the United Kingdom. We are appointed by government”. The value of UKAS and the dangers of listening to none UKAS sources as authoritative are both captured tom some extent in their article Buyer beware – Counterfeit certificates and false claims of UKAS accreditation

Key take-aways:

  • Richard Millett, KC, Lead Counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry effectively stated “72 lives lost. Reason known”
  • He further pinned responsibility for Grenfell on “dangerously out of date [guidance],… influenced by commercial interests”
  • BS 9999 guidance states that “fire curtain barriers, [should] conform to BS 8524”
  • BS 8524 is no longer maintained by any UKAS accredited Certification Bodies so should be consider ‘out of date’ until this is rectified
  • BS EN 16034 had widely available 3rd party certification from UKAS* Certification Bodies. It is also the only standard for fire curtains that is harmonised and can therefore be CE Marked with 3rd party certification


We cannot, with a clear conscience, hide behind out-of-date guidance and point blame on others. Unless we settle into our chairs and accept that Grenfell will happen again.

“Make it better by one” may have been what your parents told you as a child involved in petty spats but that advice is now what society at large and specifically the victims of Grenfell demand from us.

So, we conclude, even if the ‘web of blame’ (see Fig. 1) results in a lack of justice, will the fire industry learn from Grenfell?

Here’s a quick link to the full video and transcript (extracts above start at 1:17:40 of the video).

* or equivalent

Raising Industry Standards’, with the UK’s safest fire and smoke curtains:
  • Smoke control in a fire (only UK company)
  • 3rd party certification and CE Marking (widest range in UK)
  • Maintenance-free fabric retention (only UK company)
This article was written on the 24th November 2022 by the team at Adexon Fire & Smoke.