Sweeping reforms to the regulatory system for testing construction product safety are coming following a damning review.
The UK Government has finally published the anticipated Independent Review of the Construction Products Testing Regime.
It was announced in 2021 and headed up by former chief construction adviser to government, Paul Morrell, and barrister, Anneliese Day.
It came after major failings in construction product testing were discovered, like in the public inquiry that followed the Grenfell Tower disaster, one of the deadliest structural fires in the UK, where 72 people died and dozens more were injured.
Irregularities involved the sale of cladding and fire doors that did not match those tested and certified, which led to a complete withdrawal from the market of all composite fire doors.
The purpose of the review was to identify any potential weaknesses in the system for testing and certifying construction products and to make recommendations on those findings.
Construction Products Regulations (CPR) are the main framework through which product safety is currently evaluated.
However, under ‘systemic issues’, the review found the CPR assessment process to be so complex that “few people properly understand it”, and that there is a “concerning disconnect between those involved in the assessment process and those who design and construct buildings”.
It found many standards to be “outdated, inconsistent or non-existent”, with research conducted on behalf of government in 2020 questioning “the fitness for purpose of a number of standards critical for testing products for resistance and reaction to fire”.
The review finds there “isn’t actually a specific ‘UK system for testing the safety of construction products’, rather there is a system for assessing conformity to whatever performance requirements are set down in the standards”.
It points to potentially just one-third of all products passing regulation, leaving 20,000 to 30,000 in manufacture unregulated. It attributes this “most obvious gap” in the system to “only construction products for which there is a designated standard are covered by the [CPR]”.
Finally, enforcement has been “almost totally non-existent”, with no prosecutions under the CPR since it was enacted, and only a limited number of investigations.
- All products to be brought into the scope of the CPR by a “general safety requirement” derived from EU General Product Safety Regulation, effectively extending its principles from consumer goods to construction.
- Some products not currently covered will be brought within the regime by a new designated standard, or by being added to a list of “safety-critical” products.
- A new National Regulator for Construction Products, based in the Office for Product Safety and Standards within the Department for Business and Trade, will be appointed to work with a new Building Safety Regulator based in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
“The ultimate objective must be to set clear requirements that call for honesty on the part of manufacturers in respect of full disclosure to the approved body conducting the assessment, in the declaration of performance, in technical information to accompany the product, and in all marketing information and other communications relating to the product, with a breach of any part of this duty being an offence subject to new sanctions available to the regulator, and with effective enforcement action being taken where an offence is committed,” states the review.
Eddie Tuttle, director of policy, external affairs and research at CIOB, said: “This report is welcome and is clear that the testing regime for construction products must be effective to reassure the public. The failings highlighted by the Grenfell tragedy are all too apparent and this report makes it clear that change is necessary.”
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