Executives who sold combustible insulation for use on Grenfell Tower perpetrated a “fraud on the market” by rigging a fire test and making “misleading” claims about it, the public inquiry has heard.
Celotex, a subsidiary of the French construction materials company Saint-Gobain, behaved in a “completely unethical” way, admitted Jonathan Roper, its former assistant product manager. Roper worked on two fire tests of the foam panels and subsequent sales plans as the company tried to grab a slice of a £10m-a-year insulation foam market.
In the Grenfell fire on 14 June 2017, the foam, known as RS5000, fuelled the flames and released toxic gases and smoke. The foam was withdrawn from the market nine days later.
Roper said the firm had been “dishonest” by “over-engineering” a cladding fire safety test to achieve a pass. A first test in February 2014 failed in 26 minutes, with flames engulfing the rig. But after changing some of the materials used around the insulation, including adding concealed fire-retardant panels, a second test three months later passed and was used to market the foam boards as safe for high-rise buildings.
“Did you realise at the time that … this would be a fraud on the market?” asked Millett.
“Yes, I did,” replied Roper." Asked if he could have gone to the senior management with his concerns, he replied that they were all in the meeting about the marketing strategy. “I was 22 or 23, first job, I thought this was standard practice, albeit it did sit very uncomfortably with me.”