Grenfell: Arconic ‘couldn’t control the supply chain’

Claude Schmidt

Arconic withdrew its combustible Reynobond 55 PE cladding from the market for high-rise buildings after the Grenfell Tower disaster because it felt it “couldn’t control the whole of the supply chain”, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.

Giving evidence to the Inquiry for a fifth day, Arconic president Claude Schmidt was asked if he considered the use of Reynobond 55 PE in cassette form on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower as an “accident waiting to happen” and that it was only after this that the company withdrew the product from the market.

Schmidt replied: “Maybe yes.” But he added: “We were among the only ones to withdraw the products from the market, if we consider what our competitors were doing at the time, and it’s because we felt we couldn’t control the whole of the supply chain.”

Lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett asked: “If you couldn’t control the whole of the supply chain, wasn’t that all the more reason not to continue to sell PE, which all the tests told you was a dangerous product?”

Schmidt replied: “Yes.”

Arconic’s case is that it realised after the fire that it could not be sure customers would use its combustible PE-cored cladding safely.

In a witness statement given prior to the hearing, Schmidt said the decision to withdraw the cladding from the market was not because it believed PE to be “inherently dangerous”, nor because there was any prohibition on its sale for use on buildings above a certain height, but because it has “certain characteristics which, if used incorrectly, can increase the risk of fire spread. That is, the core is made of polyethylene, which is a plastic… Incorrect use (for example in a poorly carried out refurbishment where its use in combination with other materials has not been properly assessed) can therefore mean that in the event of a fire, the risk of that fire spreading is increased.”

The company said its assessment was made “very quickly” after the Grenfell Tower fire that its product had been used “incorrectly”. The statement added: “As such, the trust and confidence AAP SAS (Arconic Architectural Products) had previously had that the supply chain was complying with relevant regulatory regimes so that its product was being used in a way which was safe, was lost”.

The Inquiry continues.

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