Safety warnings after the Lakanal House fire

Safety warnings after the Lakanal House fire


Author: George Roberts

At 4:20pm on 3 July 2009, a fire broke out at Lakanal House, London. Six people lost their lives in the fire, and an extensive investigation followed by the Metropolitan Police and Southwark Council.

An inquest into the deaths of the six people took place in January 2013; the inquest concluded that the fire was largely caused by 'botched and unsafe renovation work' and the council's failure to inspect the building.

Under the Coroners Rules, the coroner made several recommendations to the local authority in respect of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The order came into force in 2006 with the aim of simplifying the plethora of fire safety legislation at the time. Essentially, it sets out that any person with some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can escape safely in the event of a fire.

The main rules under the order are that an organisation or responsible person must:

  • carry out a fire-risk assessment identifying any possible dangers
  • consider who may be especially at risk
  • get rid of, or reduce the risk from fire as far as it reasonably possible and provide general fire precautions to deal with any risk left
  • create a plan to deal with any emergency
  • keep a record of any findings and review frequently

The coroner's recommendations

 The coroner's recommendations to the local authority specifically stated that certain recommended actions should have already been part of the council's fire strategy as a result of the order, but weren't.

The coroner's recommendations highlight that some organisations (even local councils) are yet to be fully compliant with the order. In the future, the recommendations arising from this inquest, including the need to comply with the order are likely to be referred to as 'industry practice'. Consequently, organisations should ensure that their fire-risk assessments and emergency plans are kept up-to-date and reviewed frequently.