Kingspan staff joked about safety test ‘lies’, Grenfell inquiry hears

Kingspan employees’ text exchange questioned insulation product’s fire performance

Staff at insulation giant Kingspan, whose product was  used on Grenfell tower, where a fire killed 72 people in 2107,  joked a year earlier that claims about how safe the product was were ‘all lies’,  an inquiry has heard. Photograph:  Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

Staff at insulation giant Kingspan, whose product was used on Grenfell tower, where a fire killed 72 people in 2107, joked a year earlier that claims about how safe the product was were ‘all lies’, an inquiry has heard. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

 

Staff at insulation giant Kingspan, which made some of the combustible material used on Grenfell tower, joked in 2016 that claims about how safe the product was were “all lies” and it should be scrapped.

Text messages sent the year before the June 2017 disaster, which claimed 72 lives, suggested the employees believed the company was lying to the market about the fire performance of the “shit product” but one of them appeared to think that was funny, the public inquiry heard.

The plastic foam Kooltherm K15 insulation had failed several full-scale fire tests but was being sold on high-rise buildings on the basis of tests that related to the spread of flames across its foil surface rather than the whole material, and on an earlier full-scale test of a different, less combustible version of the product.

In a November 2016 text chat, Peter Moss, a member of the firm’s technical team, asked his colleague Arron Chalmers, about the fire performance of the foam insulation, which was marketed as having a class-0 rating – the safest for spread of flames across the surface of a product.

After telling Mr Moss that it was class 0, Mr Chalmers added: “Doesn’t actually get class 0 when we test the whole product tho. LOL.”

Mr Moss replied: “WHAT. We lied? Honest opinion now.”

Mr Chalmers said: “Yeahhhh. Tested K15 as a whole – got class 1 [a worse performance]. Whey. Lol.”

Mr Moss’s response was: “Shit product. Scrap it.”

Mr Chalmers then explained that it was “worded in such a way that it ‘implies’ the facing can give you class 0 – but don’t tell anyone that”.

Mr Moss then quoted the Kingspan marketing literature: “Kingspan Kooltherm K15 is class 0 (non combustible).”

Mr Chalmers said: “All lies mate ? Alls we do is lie in here”

Adrian Pargeter, Kingspan’s director of technical and marketing, was asked about the exchange by counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC, who suggested it was “a pithy summary of Kingspan’s culture at the time”. The Kingspan executive said: “I don’t believe that’s true at all.”

“Do you accept that a culture of lying about the fire safety of products is particularly serious, because you’re taking risks with people’s lives?,” Mr Millett asked.

“I don’t believe that we are lying,” Mr Pargeter replied. “I can’t explain why they’re describing it as such in that way between the two of them.”

Earlier that year during an email discussion about the classification of the product, Mr Chalmers also said: “Yeah, does seem a bit of a cheat though, doesn’t it, claiming class 0 for just a facer test when, as you said, it’s meant to be product as placed on the market.”

At that point, a Kingspan executive on the thread interjected and said: “Perhaps it would be better if you had a meeting to discuss this matter verbally.”

Mr Pargeter said this was because the email chain was getting long. “I don’t think it was a cheat; it was just a literal interpretation of [the building regulations].”

“It’s cheating,” said Mr Millett. “And it’s cheating because you know very well that’s not what the people who put together [the building regulations] meant, but you were taking advantage of a clever-clogs reading of it to try to sell product.”

“I don’t think it was a clever-clogs reading of it,” said Mr Pargeter. “It was how it was written.”

The inquiry continues. – Guardian