Socialist Worker

Grenfell cladding firm was ‘dishonest’ inquiry is told

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2732

Protesting outside the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry on Thursday of last week

Protesting outside the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry on Thursday of last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Former employees at building cladding firm Celotex have admitted the company “manipulated” test results to compete with market rivals.

Celotex produced the flammable insulation that was used on Grenfell Tower.

Former product manager Jonathan Roper last week gave evidence to the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

He said the manipulation of results was “deliberately misleading and dishonest” and said he had been forced to “lie for commercial gain”.

Celotex needed to compete with rival Kingspan.

Kingspan controlled the market for insulation on high rise buildings—which is worth £10 million a year.

Celotex rebranded its existing flammable FR5000 insulation product as RS5000. But it needed to pass fire tests before being used on buildings taller than 18 metres.

RS5000 failed its first test. Celotex then added fire-resisting magnesium oxide boards to the test wall to increase its chances of pasting a retest.

It also added thicker cladding panels.

Approval

The inquiry heard that this was done in the knowledge and with the approval of Celotex’s senior management.

And a member of staff at the private Building Research Establishment testing facility was aware of the changes.

The test report contained no reference to the additional boards. And any reference was removed from marketing material.

Instead it was advertised as “suitable for use” on high rise buildings.

According to Roper, “This was a common practice. All of the management action board were present when the decision was made.”

Roper’s manager and head of marketing, Paul Evans, denied having knowledge of the decision to add additional fire barriers in the test. Witnesses say otherwise.

Jamie Hayes, former technical services officer for Celotex, was questioned by inquiry barrister Richard Millett QC.

Millett asked, “Was it your view that Celotex was engaged in trying to create a misleading test report?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what was happening,” Hayes replied.

The inquiry continues.


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