RUSSELL SIMSON: "In hindsight, we should have at least put a yellow sticker on the building.''
A council worker who inspected the Canterbury Television (CTV) building after the September 4, 2010 earthquake has conceded that in hindsight it should have been yellow stickered.
Yesterday, the royal commission inquiry into the building's failure in the February 22 earthquake heard from three inspectors assigned to carry out a detailed "level 2" rapid assessment on the building on September 7.
The evidence from Graeme Calvert, Dave Flewellen and Russell Simson ended week one of the eight-week inquiry.
The inspectors agreed to give the building a green placard - meaning it was safe to occupy - despite none of them having engineering experience and the top floors of the building being locked at the time.
Training on the rapid assessment process was also heard to be minimal, consisting only of briefings at emergency headquarters before the teams were dispatched.
Arriving at the CTV building at 11.45am on September 7, Flewellen and Simson said they realised the building was complex and that it needed an engineer's inspection.
However, "they were there" and, engineers being in short supply, went ahead with the assessment anyway.
Neither of them found damage in the building that appeared to be an imminent danger to occupants on the lower levels, but accepted there could have been structural damage they could not see.
The commission heard the decision to green sticker the building was predominantly based on an assurance from a man who appeared to be a "boss" at the CTV building that an engineer would be enlisted to inspect the building soon.
It was possible the man was building manager John Drew or CTV manager Murray Wood.
No timeframe was given.
Flewellen said the group initially wanted to allow occupation of the ground level only.
However, on the "unequivocal" assurance from the manager, they gave the entire building the all clear.
"The person we were dealing with seemed responsible and we trusted he would get an engineer as he said he would – rightly or wrongly," Flewellen said.
Calvert filled out the level 2 assessment form, marking it as G2, meaning it could be occupied but repairs were required.
Simson said they had been instructed that it was the building owner's responsibility to get an engineer.
He said it "would have been a good move" to alert council bosses at emergency headquarters that an engineer needed to check the building.
However, they were simply "doing our best on the day".
"All three of us had been in the building industry our whole lives ... you've got a bit of a gut feeling how a building works," Simson said.
"In hindsight, we should have at least put a yellow sticker on the building. We're a whole lot wiser now."
An engineer did eventually inspect the building on September 29 and also gave it the all clear.
One hundred and fifteen people died in the CTV building collapse and subsequent fire after the February 22 earthquake last year. The eight-week inquiry will resume on Monday, opening with evidence from Drew.