Grenfell: Rydon lacked clarity on design responsibility

Grenfell Tower in 2018 CC by 2.0 credit ChiralJon

Rydon did not have a system in place to ensure there were no gaps in design responsibility, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

During the first day of questioning Rydon’s first witness, QC for the Inquiry Richard Millett probed how Rydon was able to keep track of how works were being carried out. He asked Simon Lawrence, contract manager on the project between 2014 and 2015, if Rydon had a design responsibility matrix, clearly setting out each subcontractor and designer’s scope and liabilities. “I don’t recall there being a design responsibility matrix process or document,” Lawrence said.

“If you didn’t have such a process, how were you going to ensure that each contractor or each subcontractor understood its responsibilities and its liabilities so that there would be no gaps in scopes or deliverables?” Millett asked. “I don’t know,” Lawrence said. “The true answer is I don’t know. It would have been good to have a design responsibility matrix,” he added.

Millett’s line of questioning on Thursday probed how Rydon monitored the project and how that tallied with its management responsibilities to the client. He asked Lawrence how the company ensured that subcontractors’ works were compliant. Lawrence said: “A, to employ the correct ones, and then we would have the layer of building control to ensure that the design and installation was in accordance with the regulations.”

“So other people checked compliance, not Rydon?” Millett asked. “Yes, we would employ third parties to do that,” Lawrence answered.

Lawrence was also tested on his knowledge of the contents of Approved Document B, the main Building Regulations document outlining fire safety requirements. Asked whether he had ever read the document, Lawrence said “I don’t recall,” he added: “I would regard them as reference documents for us, as and when if we needed to investigate further.” Millett queried what Rydon’s internal expertise regarding was like. “You didn’t have an Approved Document B ‘bod’ in Rydon on this project?” Millett asked. “Correct,” Lawrence said.

Millett moved on to explore the extent of Lawrence’s understanding of combustible and non-combustible materials as set out in Approved Document B. The former Rydon worker said he understood the concept: “In general terms you would understand that you wouldn’t put something that would was going to add to the fire and cause the disaster that it did.” Millett suggested Lawrence therefore knew the difference between combustible and non-combustible materials. “In broad terms,” Lawrence said. “As in, I know if you set fire to paper it would set a light, if you set fire to a brick, it wouldn’t.”

Grenfell Tower was not the first block to experience a fire that that involved ACM cladding. Millett asked Lawrence if he knew about the Lakanal House fire in 2009 in which six people died. The former Rydon worker said he knew of the incident, but added: “I couldn’t tell you the details surrounding that.”

Asked whether Rydon had done any special training or provided guidance to teams working on high-rise refurbishments in light of the Lakanal House fire, Lawrence said: “Not that I recall, no.”

Millett asked whether Rydon had a system for disseminating guidance and documents so that senior project people would be familiar with them. “I don’t recall one,” Lawrence said. He added that employees did have online access to a library of construction related material, however.

Asked whether he, or anyone else at Rydon, had checked the statutory compliance of materials used on the project, Lawrence said: “I don’t believe we did.” Millett asked whether the contractor relied on specialists and designers to carry out such tasks “without asking”, to which Lawrence replied, “yes”.

The inquiry continues.

Source – Construction News

Mark Lambert
Author: Mark Lambert

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