Fears over fire safety at Edinburgh's new children's hospital

FEARS have been raised over fire safety at Edinburgh’s new children’s hospital as an official probe continues into whether all parts of the building are up to standard.
The opening of the new hospital was halted at the last minuteThe opening of the new hospital was halted at the last minute
The opening of the new hospital was halted at the last minute

An agency worker involved in fitting fire detectors to the ventilation system at the new hospital told the Evening News vital checks which should have been made by qualified electricians did not happen.

He said he had been taken on by a sub-contractor as a “spark’s mate” assisting qualified electricians and had fitted hundreds of detector devices to ventilation ducts all over the hospital.

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But the devices were meant to be connected and checked by qualified electricians - and instead, the worker claimed, he and other unqualified tradesmen were instructed to complete the connections.

He said he had raised concerns but nothing was done and his contract was ended.

The £150 million hospital, which suffered repeated delays over the past seven years, was due to have opened this week but it was announced at the last minute the transfer of services from the current Sick Kids Hospital had been halted because the ventilation system in the critical care unit was not up to standard. Health Secretary Jeane Freeman ordered extra safety checks throughout the building.

The worker said the devices he fitted involved control flaps which would identify smoke or fire, shut off the air supply and pinpoint the source of the problem.

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“In theory it’s a really, really good system. It makes your ventilation system part of your overall smoke and fire detection and it helps prevent fires. We had to go round and fit 800 or 900 of them in the hospital. What was supposed to happen was a qualified electrician would come along to make the electrical connections and check them.

“I wasn’t supposed to do that. But they had me doing that illegally and I wasn’t happy.

“The risk is if they’re not fitted and connected properly they don’t work and that endangers the whole fire and smoke detection policy. I raised the issue and eventually I complained so much they dumped me.”

He estimated he had fitted up to 500 of the devices. “I know they’re fitted ok but I know they shouldn’t be fitted in that manner,” he said.

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“I worked for an agency for a sub-contractor. The sub-contractor’s interests are to get the job done as quickly as possible for as much money as possible.”

He said a supervisor had told him: “Make sure you don’t get caught.”

Wallace Weir, director of the IHSL consortium building the new hospital, said: “All smoke and fire detectors in the building have been installed by appropriately trained and qualified contractors, with the system checked by qualified electricians trained in installing these systems to the relevant standards.”

He said the detectors had also been commissioned and certified as complete by the independent tester to the NHS requirements.

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