Grenfell cladder accused of ‘lack of respect’ for safety denies wrongdoing

Evidence to the inquiry has revealed tense relations between residents and contractors.

Grenfell Tower in west London (Steve Parsons/PA)
Grenfell Tower in west London (Steve Parsons/PA)

A Grenfell cladder accused of a “complete lack of respect for health and safety” has denied doing anything wrong.

Grahame Berry told an inquiry into the tower block fire that he was “not stupid enough” to have been guilty of the complaints made about him during the renovation of the tower in 2015.

A director of Osborne Berry installers, Mr Berry was working on the site having been employed to fit the windows and cladding to the 24-storey block.

The email which detailed “knocking on windows asking for tea” and “banging on people’s windows to scare animals inside flats” was first shown to the inquiry last week, however, the name of the accused was blacked out at that point.

“Feeding the wrong information to residents” and a “complete lack of respect for health and safety” including climbing across machinery were also detailed.

There was also mention of “dropping material on public footpaths”, to which Mr Berry said: “I don’t recall anything like that happening at all, but people are human beings, there can be an incident where somebody’s dropped a screw or nut but not me personally or anything like that, and there was never anything major recorded on stuff like that.”

He also said: “I’m not stupid enough to climb across a climber when its 10 or 12 or 15 floors up in the air, I wouldn’t be that stupid or naive to do that, to be fair, no.”

When asked to explain where these ideas of bad behaviour may have come from, Mr Berry said: “I can’t, no”.

The complaint was sent by Simon O’Connor, project manager for main contractor Rydon, to Ben Bailey, project manager for cladding specialists Harley Facades who had employed Osborne Berry on the project.

The boss of Harley Facades and father of Ben, Ray Bailey, told Mr Berry he “didn’t believe” the reports of bad behaviour he had received.

An email from Mr Bailey to Mr Berry said: “I don’t believe that this is true but we need to be squeaky clean and ultra professional.

“We have got the job under control and we do not want to give the residents any opportunity to complain.”

Ben Bailey, project manager at the west London block for external wall fitters and cladding specialists Harley Facades, giving evidence to the Grenfell Tower inquiry (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)
Ben Bailey, project manager at the west London block for external wall fitters and cladding specialists Harley Facades, giving evidence to the Grenfell Tower inquiry (Grenfell Tower Inquiry/PA)

In an emailed reply to Mr Bailey, Mr Berry said: “We have not been any of these things at all, I don’t understand any of this stuff we have been accused of.

“If there is a problem Rydons allways (sic) come and speak to us.

“We are always polite and professional to all people.”

The afternoon session heard about further complaints of bad workmanship and issues with residents, this time relating to SD Plastering, who did some work on the internal windows.

Evidence shown to Mark Dixon, company director, detailed a complaint of trims that were not level, others that were not straight, and excess material left around another in the living room.

An email sent to Mr Dixon from Chris Holt, of main contractor Rydon, read: “This is not good workmanship and I have been told by the tenant that the operative have tried to rush though the job and therefore we have this result”.

Mr Dixon claimed the flat mentioned was “completely different” to others done in the block and the fitters had to alter their method of working and “think on their feet”.

Previous hearings have been shown evidence of strained relationships between residents and contractors working on the block, including  complaints of “some Rydon workers (…) being very aggressive and threatening towards” people living in the flats.

In 2015 local councillors wrote a letter asking for “both the TMO (Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation) and Rydon to treat residents with proper respect.”

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