King’s Cross fire anniversary: call to end “manmade disasters”

17 November 2017

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the King’s Cross fire, the leading global safety and health body says action must be taken to ensure history is not “repeatedly scarred by preventable manmade disasters”.

Kings cross

Thirty-one people died when flames raged up an escalator shaft at the underground station in London, UK, on 18 November 1987. Many more were injured.

A wooden escalator had caught fire when combustible material accumulated under it started smouldering. This was believed to be due to a discarded match or cigarette end.

Recommendations from the Fennell Public Inquiry, which followed, led to new regulations and a wave of investment, including replacing wooden escalators, the installation of automatic sprinklers and heat detectors, as well as improved radio communication and fire-safety training for all staff.

A total ban on smoking was also implemented across the entire underground network in London, including the escalators.

Richard Jones, IOSH’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said that while fire safety has improved in many areas, more work is needed. This is particularly evident after the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June, which led to the death of 71 people.

He said:

“On the 30th anniversary of this terrible fire, it’s vital to remember those who sadly perished and the lessons learned.

“Such reflection is particularly poignant and important as the UK grapples with the aftermath of another appalling tragedy, the Grenfell Tower fire.

“The public rightly demands answers and solutions for what went so badly wrong. And there must be real action to prevent our history being repeatedly scarred by preventable manmade disasters.”

Notes for editors

IOSH is the Chartered body for health and safety professionals. With over 46,000 members in 120 countries, we’re the world’s largest professional health and safety organisation.

We set standards, and support, develop and connect our members with resources, guidance, events and training. We’re the voice of the profession, and campaign on issues that affect millions of working people.

IOSH was founded in 1945 and is a registered charity with international NGO status.

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