Grenfell insulation firm boss told staff to let concerns 'gather dust'

Grenfell insulation firm boss told staff to let concerns 'gather dust'

Grenfell insulation firm boss told his staff to let concerns about their product ‘gather dust’, public inquiry hears as executives from cladding company prepare to face questions

  • Manager who sold Grenfell cladding panels will be questioned at public inquiry 
  • Inquiry is examining how products were supplied and fitted on the London tower
  • West London tower block was engulfed in flames in June 2017, killing 72 people 

The boss of a firm that sold insulation used at Grenfell Tower told staff to let concerns about their product ‘gather dust,’ a public inquiry has heard as executives from a cladding company prepare to face questions.

Industry certifying body the BBA first raised concerns with Kingspan’s Kooltherm K15 product in 2008 – nine years before a fire at the West London apartment block killed 72 people.  

The concerns were raised two months after the product was first issued and the BBA offered to make several changes free of charge – according to emails shown when Kingspan employee Andrew Pack gave evidence to a public inquiry on Monday.

It is alleged that Mr Pack’s then-boss, Philip Heath, later forwarded the email with instructions to ‘let the file gather dust’.

It was later revealed the apartment block had cladding panels containing a highly combustible polyethylene core.

Bosses from a separate company, Arconic, are set to give evidence in relation to the cladding used on the tower block.

A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster will hear evidence from companies behind the cladding and insulation used on the building this week. It has heard how insulation supplier Kingspan let concerns ‘gather dust’ nearly 10 years before the tragedy  

The first witness from Arconic to give evidence will be Deborah French, the UK sales manager who sold cladding panels to contractors.

The company told The Times it has ‘fully co-operated with the authorities and the inquiry at all times’. 

A spokesman added: ‘The three individuals who have declined to participate in the inquiry have taken the advice of separate counsel and Arconic does not have any influence on those decisions.’

The inquiry resumed remotely yesterday for the first time since December. 

Witnesses will have to confirm that they are alone while giving evidence, while also confirming they have no documents or other materials to hand. They must also leave mobile phones and electronic devices outside of which ever room they log on from.  

Some members of the US company, which has a headquarters in France, have claimed they are barred under French law from giving evidence. 

The inquiry has previously heard about Kingspan using outdated test material to suggest that K15 was safe for use in high-rise buildings above 18m tall.

The product sold from 2006 onwards was different from that tested the year before, but the firm kept selling it using the old technology’s test pass and only withdrew this information in October 2020.

Giving evidence from Dubai, Mr Pack – who is now a global technical support manager reporting to Kingspan’s Middle Eastern division – agreed when asked by inquiry lawyer Rachel Troup: ‘Do you agree that is a clear instruction to delay the matter of the proposed amendments?’

Describing the inquiry’s work as ‘urgent’, Sir Martin said organisers are ‘determined to resume normal working arrangements as soon as it is safe to do so’.

‘We all understand that taking evidence in this way lacks some of the important qualities of a hearing at which witnesses and counsel are physically present and face each other across the room, however the style of questioning will remain the same and we shall expect the witnesses to help the inquiry to the best of their ability,’ he added.

A group supporting survivors and bereaved of the tragedy has described the move to remote hearings as ‘very disappointing’.

Grenfell United said in a statement they ‘well understand how important it is to protect lives and people’s health but there is an urgent need to move back to public hearings in a safe way as soon as possible.

‘This inquiry is our opportunity to look the people who were responsible for the deaths of our loved ones in the eye.

‘It’s the least we deserve.’

The inquiry continues.  

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