Specialists have welcomed additional powers granted to the safety body charged with maintaining construction product standards in the wake of revelations at the Grenfell Tower disaster inquiry.
The new construction products regulator will operate within the Office for Product Safety and Standards department. Granted an additional £10m of funding, this will give the new watchdog more responsibility to conduct its own independent product-testing when investigating cases of suspected malpractice.
All construction product manufacturers must now ensure that their products are safe before being sold – which includes testing cladding and associated products such as insulation against new, tougher safety standards.
Reacting to the latest announcement from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, Peter Johnson, chairman of Vivalda Group, the UK’s largest independent distributor of non-combustible facade products, said: “This is definitely a step in the right direction for the cladding industry. Damning evidence heard from the Grenfell enquiry is liable to cast a long shadow of suspicion across the entire construction sector and so any additional quality assurances must be fully supported. Without independent and transparent testing and quality checks, nobody wins.
“Indeed, my own company has lost several competitive contract pitches over the years to products where the fire test performance of a cheaper material is highly questionable owing to gaps in the certification. I would like to believe that such fast and loose practice is now a thing of the past. Certainly, this measure goes some way to stamping it out for good, thus providing what the industry and wider society demands – proven safety.”
Steve Halcrow from Chelwick Limited, said: “Tightening the process by which test information is collected, verified and presented could make a significant step towards raising standards and building confidence in building quality. Contractors and consultants also need to ensure that they fully understand the contents of test certificates and know what they should be looking for. I have seen instances of test certificates being supplied that actually confirm that a product is combustable and clients read them and don’t understand them.”