Kingspan boss tells staff it will take time to rebuild trust after Grenfell inquiry
Inquiry heard insulation group had relied on results from flawed safety tests
The Grenfell Tower tragedy took place in 2017. Photograph: PA Wire
Gene Murtagh has told staff there were “undeniable historic shortcomings” on Kingspan’s part that need to be acknowledged and addressed. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Kingspan chief executive Gene Murtagh has warned workers that rebuilding trust will take time following damaging revelations about the Irish insulation manufacturer at an inquiry into a London tower block fire that killed 72 people.
An inquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London in 2017 heard that, some years previously, Kingspan relied on results from flawed safety tests to market its Kooltherm K15 insulation product, some of which was used on the building.
A note from Mr Murtagh to workers warns that rebuilding trust will take time and decisive action. “We have already implemented significant steps to ensure the weaknesses in our testing and marketing of K15 can never be repeated,” he says.
He repeats that there were “undeniable historic shortcomings” on Kingspan’s part that need to be acknowledged and addressed to underpin the group’s commitment to proper professional standards and fire safety.
Lawyers for the inquiry have argued that a former senior figure at Kingspan’s UK operation was involved in marketing K15 without solid testing evidence.
It also emerged last week that Kingspan hired UK lobbyists Portland and Grayling after the fire to convince British MPs that combustible materials were no less safe than non-combustible products.
A supplier sent one delivery of K15 to Grenfell when the building was being refurbished. The bulk of the material used on the tower’s cladding came from a rival of Kingspan’s, Celotex.
The Irish group’s product made up 5 per cent of the insulation used on the building’s facade. The business only discovered afterwards that K15 had been used on Grenfell and has said that it did not recommend its use on the tower.
Mr Murtagh points out that the system used on Grenfell Tower was “not compliant with building regulations, should not have been built, and was unsafe regardless of the insulation used”.
Internal communications show staff joked about the fact that fire safety results were flawed, and that one senior figure told colleagues that a builder who questioned K15’s safety should “f**k off”.
Kingspan staff denied that these communications illustrated the culture there at the group at the time. The company has also said that it condemns unreservedly any actions that demonstrate a lack of commitment to fire safety.
The group has since tested and re-tested K15 to ensure that it now complies with British standards regulating the fire performance of building materials used for external cladding.
Mr Murtagh says Kingspan will take further action to ensure the historical behaviour is not repeated anywhere in the group.
His note acknowledges that the inquiry showed historical and unacceptable conduct and process shortcomings in a small part of its UK insulation boards business.
“We have apologised unreservedly for this, and I want to assure you that it is being addressed with the utmost seriousness,” he says.
The inquiry has been postponed until January 11th as one of the members tested positive for Covid-19 last week.