Kingspan workers were instructed to allow changes proposed by the British Board of Agrément (BBA) to the fire section of the certificate for the K15 insulation product to “gather dust”, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.
A quantity of K15 was used during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, which was undertaken prior to the June 2017 fire in which 72 people lost their lives.
The Inquiry, which has now resumed remotely as a result of ongoing coronavirus restrictions, heard evidence from Andrew Pack, who has worked at Kingspan since 1992 and reported to divisional business development director Philip Heath from the start of his time there until 2010.
Now global technical support manager, Pack was a technical services manager at the business from 2001 until 2010. In March 2009, he and colleagues were sent an email by Heath, which forwarded on an email chain showing an exchange between George Lee of the BBA and another Kingspan employee, Gareth Mills.
On Christmas Eve 2008, Lee sent an email suggesting changes to the fire section of the BBA’s certificate for K15 to make the wording clearer.
He also suggested adding a line to make it clearer how the fire test for K15 had been undertaken, which read: “The product has been tested to BS 8414−1 for a specific construction on masonry walls.”
Mills passed the email on to Heath, who did not appear to respond until March 2009. In his March 2009 email, Heath told Pack and colleague Ivor Meredith that Mills had brought the issue to his attention and instructed them to “let the file gather dust”.
Pack said he had no recollection of Heath’s email and had never met Lee at the BBA. “K15 was not a big product for me, I’m afraid. I had many other products in my portfolio,” he said.
Asked by counsel to the Inquiry Rachel Troup if he agreed that the phrase “let the file gather dust guys” was a “clear instruction” to delay the matter of the proposed amendments, Pack agreed that it was.
Tests ‘almost kept secret’
Earlier in the hearing, Pack explained how it was “strange” to see a fire test report for Kingspan products because they were rarely shared beyond a small team.
Troup asked Pack: “The impression you seem to be giving, and you must correct me if I’m wrong about this, is the test reports were almost kept secret to within the technical projects team; is that fair?”
Pack replied: “Yes, correct.”
Asked why this was, Pack said: “Throughout my career at Kingspan, when people do fire testing, it has been the case that those test reports have been kept within the people that do that testing. You’d have to ask the people that do that testing why that is. I don’t know.”
Last year, Kingspan withdrew three large-scale test results for K15 after admitting that the product testing did not represent what it was selling.
In a statement, it has said: “The Inquiry has highlighted historic process shortcomings and unacceptable conduct within a part of our UK Insulation business, for which we have apologised unreservedly and which we are treating with the utmost seriousness.
"These matters do not reflect the organisation that we are or aspire to be, and significant actions have been taken and are in progress, that further underpin our commitment to fire safety and to professional conduct. We continue to support the Inquiry in its work and are determined to learn all necessary lessons."
It has also said: "Kingspan Insulation had no role in the design or planning of the cladding system at Grenfell Tower, and provided no advice to those working on Grenfell Tower around the suitability of K15 for use in the installed cladding system."
The Inquiry continues.