BWF Technical Director Kevin Underwood outlines the key recommendation from Independent Review of the Construction Product Testing Regime and what this could mean for businesses manufacturing construction products.
On the 20th of April, the Government published its long-awaited Independent Review of the Construction Product Testing Regime which was announced in April 2021. The review was led by Paul Morrell OBE and Anneliese Day KC and its purpose was to map the system for testing, certifying, marketing, selling, re-testing, and recalling construction products, assess what does, or could, go wrong within this system, and recommend how the system should be strengthened. The review covered all construction products, so was not limited to construction products intended for use in high rise residential buildings.
The report was commissioned following the Grenfell Tower Tragedy in June 2017 and in the closing comments of the Executive Summary the report states,
“Amongst the least edifying spectacles of the Grenfell Tower tragedy have been the arguments deployed by successive parties in denying or deflecting responsibility. It is for the Public Inquiry to investigate and report on the failings that occurred and by whom, but there are some truths that should be taken as evident:
- That it is for product manufacturers to develop products that do the job expected of them, and to market them honestly, making no false claims,
- That it is for Conformity Assessment Bodies to test and assess those products against defined specifications, impartially and independently, so that those who must rely upon performance claims can do so with confidence,
- That it is for designers to choose products with the performance that is fit for purpose, and then design them into the works so that the performance can be achieved,
- That it is for constructors to bring everything together with the same objective in mind – using imagination to find better ways of doing things, but not in a careless moment, throwing away all of the good work that has brought the product and design to that stage in order to save cash in the short-term, leaving the building owner and occupiers with a problem in the long-term,
- That it is not for regulators or enforcement authorities to act as the industry’s quality assurance department and take responsibility for every infraction anywhere in the system, but it is their vital role to keep a watchful eye out for non-compliance, and to aid compliance,
- That it is also for regulators and enforcement authorities to see that regulations are enforced where necessary – and particularly where they are wilfully ignored or carelessly disregarded, and
- That all the above depends upon clear regulatory requirements and standards that deliver the desired outcome.”
The report makes twenty recommendations,
- Complexity: Improve the accessibility of legislation and guidance, and to promote understanding of the regime for the regulation and assessment of construction products.
- Capacity: Address, as a matter of urgency, the inadequacy of testing capacity to meet the projected growth in demand as a consequence of the end of recognition of CE marking and changes to the Construction Products Regulations.
- General safety requirement: to bring products currently outside the Construction Products Regulations into the regulatory regime in an effective and proportionate way.
- “Safety-critical” products: to increase the focus on products essential to (and in the context of) safety-critical construction.
- Accreditation: to strengthen the role of UKAS in the accreditation process.
- Standards: to address the coverage, quality, and oversight of UK standards.
- Systems testing: to strengthen understanding and application of testing products assembled into systems.
- Conformity Assessment (Approved Bodies): to restore the outcome of the conformity assessment process as a public good.
- Conformity Assessment (Manufacturers): to ensure Approved Bodies are provided with all relevant information when making an assessment.
- Conformity assessment (the Assessment and Verification of Constancy of Performance system): both to simplify and strengthen the AVCP system.
- AVCP documentation: to ensure the transparency and accessibility of assessment documentation.
- The Declaration of Performance: to provide verified and consistent product information to all of those relying on the assessment process.
- Technical Assessment: to provide a route to market for innovative products.
- Voluntary third-party certification: to increase the scope and ensure the rigour of third-party certification schemes.
- Marketing and the Code for Construction Product Information: to ensure the production of clear, accurate, honest, and accessible product information.
- Labelling, traceability, and the golden thread: to develop standards and protocols for product labelling and traceability, the management of information via the golden thread, and the control of product substitution.
- Competence: to address the particular competence requirements for complex, higher-risk buildings.
- Surveillance and enforcement: to strengthen and support the surveillance and enforcement regime, to ensure fair competition and the conformity of products on the market.
- Public procurement: for Government to use public sector buying power as an incentive to adopt best practice in securing product and building safety.
- Engagement with industry: to create a shared road map for practical progress to build on the mutual desire for change.
These recommendations describe changes that will have a significant effect on businesses manufacturing construction products and the BWF will be working through any new legislation and regulatory changes that arise following the report’s recommendations and advising its members accordingly.