Suffolk firm at centre of Grenfell controversy faced ‘pressure to increase profits’, inquiry hears
PUBLISHED: 19:02 20 November 2020 | UPDATED: 19:02 20 November 2020
A “pressure to increase profits” motivated Suffolk firm Celotex to fast-track a manipulated test of insulation used on Grenfell Tower, an inquiry into the tragedy has heard.
Jamie Hayes, a former member of Celotex’s technical team, told lawyers at the hearing into the June 2017 tragedy that the Hadleigh firm’s acquisition by French company Sain Gobain in 2012 “brought about a change in culture”
That included an “increased financial pressure to develop new products” and “a sense of pressure to increase profits”, with staff pushed to sell more new products.
When asked how financial pressures manifested themselves in the business, Mr Hayes explained to Thursday’s hearing that a second high-rise fire test was arranged “incredibly quickly” after a first one failed only a few months previously.
The inquiry had previously heard that a first fire test for the Rs5000 product used on the London tower failed in January 2014 – but a second system passed in the same year.
It reportedly used this to erroneously market the combustible rigid foam boards as being safe for use on high-rise buildings.
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Mr Hayes told the inquiry: “Although it didn’t seem that strange to me at the time I look back on that now and think it’s unbelievable that only a few months passed between the failure of a major test and how quickly the second test was arranged, authorised, paid for and not to mention the fact that you would have to actually arrange to build a rig - which is to say have all the materials and have someone construct it.
“How quickly they turned around from one to two I think illustrates quite well that they were not prepared to wait any longer than was humanly possible to progress that project, and I guess the ultimate point of that project was to have a product that could be sold to increase profits.”
Lawyers on Thursday heard that using the magnesium oxide was Mr Hayes’s idea but he says he was not involved in the decision to not publicise it.
On not challenging the omission in a test report, Mr Hayes said: “(It was a) failure of courage, failure of character and failure of moral fibre not to do so on my part.”
In his statement, Mr Hayes said of the component not being mentioned in marketing materials: “I was aware of it and did not challenge it” and expanded in his oral evidence “I believed it and know it to be wholly wrong and dishonest.”
In its opening statement for module two of the inquiry, Celotex said: “In the course of investigations carried out by Celotex after the Grenfell Tower fire, certain issues emerged concerning the testing, certification and marketing of Celotex’s products.
“These matters involved unacceptable conduct on the part of a number of employees.”
The inquiry continues.
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