MSP to consult on law for mandatory sprinklers in all new social housing
David Stewart, a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, is bringing in a member’s bill which would place a duty on local authorities and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to install automatic fire suppression systems into all newly constructed social housing.
A BBC Scotland investigation in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed the lives of 71 people in the North Kensington tower block last June, found there are no sprinklers in over 300 high-rise buildings managed by Scottish councils and social landlords.
Prior to the Grenfell disaster, fire injuries and deaths in Scotland have been significantly higher than the rest of the country. In 2015-16, there were 5,673 dwelling fires in Scotland, 46% higher per million inhabitants than in England and Wales.
Fires are also more prevalent in areas of socio-economic deprivation. The 2009 Scotland Together Report into Scottish fire deaths and injuries found that 31% of all accidental dwelling fires occurred in the 15% of most deprived areas of Scotland.
The same report found that, despite only constituting approximately 25% all Scottish dwellings, social rented housing accounted for 40% of all accidental dwelling fire deaths.
Mr Stewart said sprinkler systems are so highly effective at preventing the spread of fires and limiting the damage they cause that there has been no instance of multiple fire deaths in Scotland where a working sprinkler system was installed.
The MSP’s proposal will begin a consultation period running until April 16 this year, and will also seek views on what action can be taken to retrofit sprinkler systems into existing high-rise social housing stock.
David Stewart said: “Fire safety is a significant issue in Scotland, and house fires are more prevalent in areas of socio-economic deprivation. The scandal of Grenfell last summer was that protection was not available to those who were most in need.
“That is why I am making this common sense proposal to ensure all new social housing has a sprinkler system installed. This simple change in law is a practical step that will save lives.
“Councils in Angus, Fife and Dundee already install sprinklers into their new developments as standard and I want to see this approach extended all over Scotland.
“My consultation opens tomorrow for 12 weeks and I would encourage as many members of the public and organisations as possible to respond.”
Keith MacGillivray, chief executive of the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, said: “The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) are pleased to support the initiative by David Stewart MSP in proposing a Member’s Bill to improve fire safety in Scotland by requiring the installation of automatic fire suppression systems (sprinklers) into all new-built social housing.
“We would also support the retro-fitting of sprinklers into all Scottish high-rise social housing.
“BAFSA has campaigned for almost forty-five years to improve the safety of the public and Firefighters by the installation of automatic fire sprinklers, which control and extinguish fires in their very early stages.
“We continue through our Membership to advocate for the highest standards for sprinklers in their manufacture, supply, installation and maintenance.
“Through third party accreditation and the development of installer qualifications we ensure that our membership are competent and qualified to install sprinklers.
“Sadly, 2017 and the early days of 2018 have seen a number of extremely serious fires in the UK. Some have had serious loss of life and others significant insurance costs, all have put both the public and firefighters at risk from fire.
“Automatic fire sprinklers have a proven track record for the mitigation of fire and the prevention of loss of life through fire, this goes back more than one hundred years..
“The installation of sprinkler systems to the appropriate British Standards by competent, third party accredited installers will ensure that the risk from fire to the public and firefighters is reduced significantly.
“Sprinklers also reduce the impact on the environment from fire, they make buildings more sustainable, they ensure businesses are more resilient and they make economic sense over the lifespan of a building.
“This proposed Members Bill would make a significant difference to the safety of the Scottish public and firefighters while ensuring that Scotland’s housing stock is more sustainable.”
Image by Brandon Leon - Flickr: Day 25: Fire Sprinkler, CC BY-SA 2.0