The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster has heard from Jonathan Roper, a former assistant product manager at Celotex, said that his former employer had been ‘dishonest’ by ‘over-engineering’ a fire safety test to enable its Rs5000 insulation product to pass assessments.
The insulation had failed a test in January 2014 but in May 2014 it passed a second test. The result led the firm to market the combustible rigid foam boards as safe for use on high-rise buildings.
It was explained that Celotex added a 6mm fire-resisting magnesium oxide board to a cladding test rig consisting of 12mm fibre cement panels for the second test. The inquiry then heard that 8mm fibre cement panels were added to ‘conceal’ the presence of the magnesium oxide, making the whole system almost flush.
After questions from Richard Millett QC, Mr Roper agreed that using a thinner layer was to make it less noticeable there was something else behind it. This move he said would help to respond to questions about how the panels had been made up.
Asked by Mr Millett: “Did that not strike you at the time as dishonest?” Mr Roper replied: “Yes it did. I went along with a lot of actions at Celotex that, looking back on reflection, were completely unethical and that I probably didn’t potentially consider the impact at the time.”
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, said he thought the testimony was shocking. He stressed that tougher regulations that are planned will improve building safety.