The Government has recently published a report by Paul Morrell OBE and Anneliese Day KC titled “Testing for the Future – An Independent Review of the Construction Products Testing Regime“. The terms of reference for the report were to answer the question: “How should the UK system for testing the safety of construction products and the use of data from the system be strengthened, to inspire confidence that those products are safe and perform as labelled and marketed when incorporated into construction work?“
The extensive report (which runs to 174 pages) is another outcome of Dame Judith Hackett’s recommendations following the Grenfell enquiry, which has led to the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA), largely being implemented this year.
The BSA sets out a framework for the future regulation of construction products, but secondary legislation is to detail how construction products will be regulated going forward. This is where the report comes in. It contains many sensible recommendations to address the array of complex and opaque construction products and materials regimes; the question of what will replace the EU regulations and how to deal with some two thirds of products not currently regulated. All against the background of what is an increasingly globalised supply chain where each finished product may comprise components from different sources.
The review was not limited to the use of construction products in Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs) as defined by the BSA, nor is it only related to fire safety issues. Currently there is not a unified UK system for testing the safety of construction products. Instead, there is only a system for assessing conformity with performance requirements set down in various standards and only for some, but far from all, products. Of those standards that exist many are outdated and inconsistent and enforcement is virtually non-existent.
The Government has already decided to create a construction products regulator. Under the BSA, all construction products will be brought into the scope of the regulator and there will be a new regulatory regime for enforcement. The report also recommends that there should be requirements for manufacturers to share technical documentation and information with the regulator and /or enforcement authorities.
The extent to which the recommendations will be implemented now remains to be seen. If adopted in full, the question will then arise as to the timetable for implementation and like other aspects of the BSA, how any new regime will be resourced.