Green Facades pleaded guilty at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court to breaching safety regulations following inspections by the Health and Safety Executive
A flammable cladding removal and replacement company has been fined £240,000 for leaving “dangerous” combustible material similar to that used on Grenfell Tower lying on balconies at a Liverpool housing block.
London-based firm Green Facades, which was established in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, had been contracted to remove aluminium composite panels and combustible insulation material from The Circle, an eight-storey building on Henry Street in Liverpool.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a non-departmental government regulator for workplace health and safety, found that Green Facades “had failed to take appropriate precautions to address the risk of fire and to ensure the safety of residents, workers, and others.”
At Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, the company pleaded guilty to breaching two aspects of the Construction Regulations Act 2015, regarding “risks to health or safety”. It was fined £240,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,405.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Jackie Western, said: “The disturbing irony of this case is that work to protect residents from fire risk ended up making the situation more dangerous.”
An HSE inspector first visited the site on 10 January 2022 and found that Green Facades had left combustible material exposed on the building. It also found “inadequate” means of escaping from the scaffolding the firm had erected in order to undertake the work.
When the inspector returned on 21 January 2022, they found the situation had worsened with further combustible material exposed and no protection from potential sources of ignition, with cladding material having been left lying on residents’ balconies.
The Circle building remained occupied during the works. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service were alerted by the HSE following the 2022 inspection.
The combustible cladding removed from The Circle was similar to that used on Grenfell Tower which caught fire in 2017 causing the deaths of 72 people.
Residents of The Circle building had been paying £3,284.40 a week for round-the-clock “waking watch” following guidance issued the the National Fire Chiefs Council “due to the building not complying with current building regulations,” according to a letter published in the Liverpool Echo in 2020.
The HSE confirmed that Green Facades had been subject to an earlier enforcement for similar breaches during cladding removal at a site in London. At that time the company was provided with advice on sustainable compliance with the regulations.
“This prosecution highlights the need for responsible management of the removal of cladding. The potentially tragic consequences of fire involving this type of material are well known following the Grenfell Tower fire,” Western said.
“Despite earlier interventions and advice from HSE, and the availability of a wealth of guidance from HSE and others, this company continued to fail in its duty to address the risk of fire, putting people’s lives at risk.”
Green Facades’ managing director Bledi Pashollari told Housing Today he had sacked the entire project team involved and implemented a new management structure.
“As you can imagine, the events at The Circle, Liverpool, have been enormously humiliating for me personally as well as for the team of excellent staff within Green Facades that carry out their duties to a high standard every day,” Pashollari said.
“Given the severity of the misconduct that led to this conviction, the entire project team for The Circle, Liverpool has been dismissed from Green Facades. Unfortunately, whilst this may seem drastic, in the circumstances, no other course of action was possible.”