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The subcontractor working for Harley Curtain Wall to install cladding and insulation to Grenfell Tower did not receive any guidance on how to fit cavity barriers, one of its directors told the Grenfell Inquiry.
A report by Dr Barbara Lane following the Grenfell Tower
disaster in 2017 found that some horizontal cavity barriers had been installed in
the vertical position, as well as uncovering poorly fitting and cut cavity
Giving evidence to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry yesterday (30 September), Grahame Berry (also known as Bez), a director of fitting firm Osborne Berry, confirmed to counsel to the Inquiry Kate Grange QC that the business didn’t have any guidance from the manufacturer, Siderise, on how to install the cavity barriers.
Asked how, in the absence of any such guidance, Osborne
Berry could be sure that the barriers had been installed correctly, Berry said:
“Because the mock-up we done, the original sample we done, was inspected by
Harley, Rydons, the building inspector, Building Control, people like that come
and inspect it to make sure they’re happy with what the sample looked like, and
then for us to progress on after that.”
Berry, who by the time his small firm was instructed by Harley had 32 years’ experience installing building envelopes, said he hadn’t heard of Approved Document B at the time, and didn’t recall any discussions with anybody at any time during the project about the compliance of the materials he was fitting with the Building Regulations. He also didn’t discuss the fire performance of the materials he was fitting with anyone on the project.
Berry and business partner Mark “Taff” Osborne employed just one other fitter at their firm and no formal contract existed between Osborne Berry and Harley for the works. Berry had worked as a fitter for Harley for about 20 years before incorporating Osborne Berry.
Berry claimed there were no discussions about the standard
of quality of the work required on Grenfell because it was similar to tasks
that his firm had performed on other projects for Harley previously.
Berry said that he was not aware at any stage on the Grenfell
project of being provided with instructions from cladding manufacturer Arconic
(also known as Alcoa), nor did he check any instructions before installing the
ACM cladding. He wasn’t aware that the cladding contained a PE core.
Meanwhile, he only found out when Osborne Berry got to site
that the vertical and horizontal fire stops (of which far more were required
than vertical) were two different products. He said he didn’t remember using
cavity barriers with an intumescent strip on previous projects and couldn’t
remember if Osborne Berry had used Siderise cavity barriers before.
The horizontal barriers were ventilated breaks and the vertical
breaks were “full fill”, non-ventilated breaks. Asked how they distinguished
between a horizontal cavity barrier and a vertical cavity barrier, Berry said
the horizontal ones had a black strip on the edge of them.
Asked what sort of guidance would have been given to the fitters on the project and how they would know what to do with the cavity barriers, Berry replied: “We done the first mock-up, and after that we took them up there, showed them the initial mock-up, and then took them on the mast climbers and explained to them how we wanted it done, showed them how we wanted it fitted on the building, and then after that they were working either beside us on another machine or on our machine as well, so we were watching how they were fitting it and making sure we were happy with their quality of work and stuff like that.”
Berry estimated there was a “good two months or more”
between the installation of the horizontal barriers and the installation of the
He also agreed that there was poor workmanship in the
installation of the cavity barriers on site, based on a report by Dr Barbara
Lane, which highlighted horizontal cavity barriers installed in the vertical
position, poorly fitting and cut cavity barriers with rough edges and gaps, or cavity
barriers cut around cladding rails, creating gaps. But Berry said he didn’t
notice these problems on site at all.
Grange asked how poor workmanship could have been carried
out without Osborne and Berry noticing.
Berry said: “I can’t see how it’s arisen because of the
other checks that people have come round after we’ve installed the stuff
ourselves, there was checks after we’ve installed all our stuff on the building
anyway, the insulation, the firebreaks as such. So I can’t see how that got
missed, to be fair.”
Asked who checked the cavity barriers and insulation before
the panels were installed, Berry replied that it was Harley project manager Ben
Grange said that in his evidence, Osborne had said there was
often only a small time gap between installing the cavity barrier and then
putting the insulation boards around it.
Berry said: “Yeah, but there would have been times where — lunchtimes
or at the end of the day, there would have been areas open that weren’t
completed as such which someone could inspect at that time. So there was never
ever a time where someone would have been up the building and every area was
completely finished as such, yeah.”
He agreed with Grange that there would have been “plenty of opportunities”
for anyone inspecting the work to have seen the quality of cavity barrier
installation before the insulation was put on.
Grange asked: “Is it possible that some of the fitters working
for Osborne Berry were left to their own
devices when they were fitting these barriers, and installed horizontal in the
vertical position without there being any checks of that?”
Berry replied: “Most of the time we were always on site looking at what people are doing on various mast climbers around the building, so I can’t see how it’s happened.”
Osborne Berry did not subcontract its work at Grenfell Tower
but normally used between eight and 14 self-employed fitters through the
installation process. Some of the fitters were recruited through agencies.
Grange asked what steps Osborne Berry took on the Grenfell
project to satisfy themselves of the installers’ competence and suitability for
Berry said: “Whoever come to site, we would then put them
with either me or Mark or someone who has been on there a while who is
competent enough to do the job, and they would take them under their wing and
show them what to do as well.”
After the Grenfell project had finished, in 2017, Harley
director Ray Bailey asked Berry for “CSCS and train course details for all your
operatives”. But Berry told Grange that he wasn’t asked for such information on
the Grenfell project.
Grange asked Berry about an email from Rydon’s project manager Simon O’Connor to Ben Bailey at Harley about a number of complaints from residents about Berry. The email claimed that Berry had knocked on windows asking for tea, banged on people’s windows to scare animals, and fed wrong information to residents “saying that it’s all been put in the wrong way round because of Rydon and hopefully it won’t leak”.
The email also cited complaints of “a complete lack of
respect for health and safety (climbing across climbers – dropping material on
public footpaths) to mention a few”.
O’Connor threatened to remove Berry from site permanently if there was one more incident on site.
Offered a chance to respond to the email, Berry said the concerns were not communicated directly to him but that he had an email from Ray Bailey, Ben Bailey’s father and director of Harley, about O’Connor’s email.
He said: “I replied to Ray saying that I don’t believe that
the guy is saying and it’s not in my nature to do this sort of stuff anyway.”
Grange recalled evidence from Ben Bailey saying that he spoke to the individual and said his behaviour was unacceptable. But Berry asserted that Ben Bailey had never spoken to him about the complaints.
He denied telling residents it had all been put in the wrong way because of Rydon and that hopefully it wouldn’t leak, and said he was “not stupid enough to climb across a climber when it is 10 or 12 or 15 floors up in the air”.
The Inquiry continues.