Workman ‘who compromised health and safety’ allowed to stay on at Grenfell

A workman with a “complete lack of respect for health and safety” was allowed to stay on site at Grenfell Tower, the inquiry into the tragic fire has has been told.

Evidence from Ben Bailey, project manager for cladding specialists Harley Facades, also revealed that plans for windows on the 24-storey block were marked “weak link for fire”, but recommendations were not acted upon.

A cladding and window installer – whose name was blacked out at Tuesday’s hearing – was the subject of a complaint after he was seen “knocking on windows asking for tea” and “banging on people’s windows to scare animals inside flats”.

INQUIRY Grenfell
INQUIRY Grenfell

The man was working under the guidance of Osborne Berry, subcontracted by Harley, and was noted as climbing across machinery and dropping material into public footways “to mention a few” of the issues, in a an email sent to Mr Bailey in April 2015.

The note – which was sent by Simon O’Connor, project manager for main contractor Rydon – added: “As you are aware we are tackling a difficult situation with residents as it is and these sorts of comments and behaviours only adds fuel to the fire”, and threatened to have him removed permanently if there were more problems.

When asked by inquiry lawyer Richard Millett whether the incident undermined his confidence in Osborne Berry, Mr Bailey said: “It’s not ideal to receive a message such as this.

“I think the fact that this person I don’t think was removed from site afterwards meant that the message got through loud and clear.”

This is not the first time the inquiry has heard about problematic relationships between contractors on the renovation of the west London tower and its residents.

Concerns about main contractor Rydon were raised by local councillors after complaints of “some Rydon workers (…) being very aggressive and threatening towards” people living in the flats.

Robert Atkinson and Judith Blakeman, for the Notting Dale ward, wrote a letter in summer 2015 stating: “There is a need for both the TMO and Rydon to treat residents with proper respect, engage with them properly and apologise when an apology is justified.”

Tower block fire in London
Tower block fire in London

Tuesday’s session also heard that a manufacturer found a “weak link for fire” in the window plans for the renovation, but nothing was done to fix the problem.

A blaze at the building two years later in June 2017 cost the lives of 72 people.

The inquiry was shown a window diagram the tower, with a joint at the bottom of the Harley drawing highlighted with the words “weak link for fire”.

The annotation was made by Chris Mort, technical officer at Siderise – who were providing fire preventing cavity barriers for the work, and was made on a diagram that had previously been stamped “approved for construction”.

On another drawing of the window head and window cill, Mr Mort had added small orange pen drawing changes he thought were required, but Harley never adopted them.

In a statement to the inquiry, read by lawyer Richard Millett QC, Mr Mort said his drawings were “highlighting that there was nothing to stop fire in an internal compartment moving to an external cavity.

“The window head interface with the structure shows that there is a gap. It needed some form of protection”.

He added: “It was a clear error and I felt I should highlight it.”

The inquiry continues.