Manager quizzed over Suffolk firm’s ‘misleading’ marketing of insulation used on Grenfell
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A marketing manager has been questioned over claims a Suffolk firm produced “misleading” materials about flammable insulation used on Grenfell Tower.
According to Richard Millett QC, lawyer for the ongoing public inquiry into the June 2017 tragedy, Celotex’s Rs5000 rigid foam insulation boards were repeatedly advertised as being the first which were “suitable for buildings above 18 metres in height” in promotional brochures.
But the hearing has been told that the “extremely important caveat” - that the polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation had only passed a fire safety test within a specific cladding system, which included fibre cement panels - was not made.
The inquiry has also heard claims that workers for Celotex - based in Lady Lane, Hadleigh - manipulated a key fire safety test to secure a pass for its combustible RS5000 product for use on high-rise buildings.
That included falsifying technical drawings and failing to declare a fire-resisting magnesium oxide material had been included in the test.
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The 6mm layer of magnesium oxide was also not mentioned in marketing materials suggesting the insulation could be used on high-rises and shown to the inquiry on Wednesday.
It was presented by lawyers during evidence given on Wednesday by Paul Evans, the marketing director for Celotex at the time of the fire and during the refurbishment of the tower.
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He claimed his “understanding was that what we were (publishing) was what we had tested”.
He added: “There was no-one coming to me saying, ‘we shouldn’t be launching this’.
“All I can say is that when we were launching the product to the sales team and the marketing material was going there was not anything in me that thought what we were doing” was misleading.
When pushed by inquiry Mr Millett as to whether “you accept that this marketing literature here when describing the test was thoroughly misleading?”, Mr Evans said: “Yes.”
Mr Evans suggested the RS5000 had not been approved for use in high-rises in isolation, but rather as part of a wider system.
He told the inquiry in his statement that the team was “keen to make it absolutely clear in the marketing literature that the product approval to the two standards had occurred as part of a system so the product was not approved in isolation for use in any particular application or system”.
There was a line in the marketing material which read: “The classification applies only to the system as tested and detailed in the classification report.”
The hearing was also shown an email from Mr Evans referring to other marketing material for the RS500 in which he told a colleague: “We always need to be careful how we validate the +18m message.
“We can’t have it in too many places as a stand alone statement.”
He said he wanted to make sure that message was “validated” and “caveated”.
Mr Evans was employed by Celotex between 2007 and 2018, when he left the company “by mutual consent”, according to his statement.
In its opening statement for module two of the inquiry, Celotex said: “In the course of investigations carried out by Celotex after the Grenfell Tower fire, certain issues emerged concerning the testing, certification and marketing of Celotex’s products.
“These matters involved unacceptable conduct on the part of a number of employees.”
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick described earlier evidence about Celotex’s alleged “dishonest” acts as “shocking”.
He added: “To see somebody who worked in a manufacturer supplier admitting freely that they had rigged the testing and put many people’s lives at risk as a result was very shocking.
“What we need to do now is learn the lessons from that, that’s what the independent public inquiry will, I hope, achieve, and we need to make sure there’s much, much stiffer regulation for building safety in this country.”
The inquiry continues.