Construction products testing regime to undergo independent review

In our previous edition of Building Blogs, Alan Tate reviewed the Construction Products Association's (CPA) proposed code for construction product information. The requirement for the code was born out of the recommendations in the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety ('Hackitt Report') which recommends that construction products be 'properly tested, certified, labelled and marketed'. [1]

The latest update in the reform of construction product regulations is that the Government has appointed two experts to review of the system for testing construction products. The Government's former chief construction advisor, Paul Morrell OBE and barrister, Anneliese Day QC will conduct a critical analysis of the construction products certification and testing regime, identifying any potential weaknesses in the system and setting out recommended  improvements.  It should be noted that whilst the Hackitt Report addressed the regulatory system covering high-rise and complex buildings, the Government has clarified that this review will cover a broad range of construction products and is not limited by construction products used in high-rise and complex residential buildings.

The review has a number of objectives in order to address the issues identified in the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry ('the Inquiry') relating to the testing of construction products.

Systemic issues for testing and certifying construction products

Amongst other concerns, evidence from the Inquiry revealed examples of construction product manufacturers covering up safety issues and selling combustible products despite them failing fire tests.[2]  The Inquiry also revealed concerns around quality assurance for construction products including examples whereby doors marketed as a 30-minute fire door failed prior to 30 minutes when tested.[3] These issues are summarised in the Hackitt Report whereby the current system for testing and certifying products in the construction industry has been described as 'disjointed, confusing, [and] unhelpful'.[4] The lack of transparency for testing and certifying construction products has facilitated a culture of malpractice within the industry which, if unresolved, has the potential to expose citizens to unnecessary safety risks.

Objectives and aims of the review

A key objective of the review is to assess the flaws underpinning the current system. This aim in encapsulated in the following question: 

 ‘How should the UK system for testing the safety of construction products and the use of data from the system be strengthened, to inspire confidence that those products are safe and perform as labelled and marketed when incorporated into construction work?'

The Government has advised that the review will answer the above question in the following three stages:

  1. The review will scrutinise the current system for testing, certifying, marketing, selling, re-testing and recalling construction products, including the legal framework under which this happens.
  1. The review will consider evidence from a variety of sources and assess what does/ could go wrong within this system.
  1. The review will conclude by recommending how this system should be strengthened, taking into account wider Government and industry reforms and any economic or practical implications of implementing the recommendations.[5]
     

Comment

The findings of the review will be set out in a report which will be issued to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in summer 2021. Together with the appointment of a National Construction Products Regulator and a new code for construction product information, this review is the latest step in an ongoing, thorough reform to the regulatory system governing the manufacture, sale and installation of construction products following the recommendations of the Hackitt Report. It is hoped that these steps will prevent abuse of the testing system and ensure that buildings are constructed to a high standard using approved and safe materials.

For more information on how this review can affect your construction project contact Sam Phillips or another member of our Construction & Engineering team.

 

[1] See Building a Safer Future – Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report, page 92. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/707785/Building_a_Safer_Future_-_web.pdf

[2] See Grenfell: New body to ban dangerous building materials after inquiry. Available at: Grenfell: New body to ban dangerous building materials after inquiry - BBC News

[3] See Building a Safer Future – Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report, page 5. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/707785/Building_a_Safer_Future_-_web.pdf  

[4] Ibid page 6  

[5] See Independent Review of the Construction Products Testing Regime. Available at: Independent Review of the Construction Products Testing Regime - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)