Safety report on Grenfell insulation had errors

The plastic insulation that burned on the outside of Grenfell Tower had been issued with a fire performance report by the government’s fire safety advisor BRE which contained errors.

Plastic insulation manufacturer Celotex says it discovered "differences" between the fire test of its RS5000 foam panels at BRE's laboratory in 2014 and the crucial write-up of the test, known as a BR135 report, issued by BRE fire engineers.

The company said it did not know whether the differences meant other buildings using their product are safe.

"We have identified that one or more additional materials seem to have been used in the rainscreen cladding system which was tested that do not appear in the test report," the company said.

"Our priority is to establish whether there are any fire safety issues arising from these differences."

Architects and building designers rely on an official product certificate based in part on the BR135 report to tell them how a combustible cladding system should be built to make it safe in the event of a fire.

Following Celotex's announcement of the discrepancies, BRE issued a brief statement denying responsibility for the error.

It said: "The information provided by Celotex for inclusion in the report is a question for Celotex - it was their discrepancy not BRE's."

In a subsequent statement it went further, saying: "It is our understanding that the test system was not constructed according to Celotex's design specification and as such, the test results have been withdrawn."

:: Grenfell - Britain's fire safety crisis

Celotex launched the RS5000 polyisocyanurate product immediately after the test as the first plastic foam insulation permitted for use on the outside of tower blocks.

The test report stated that the combustible plastic insulation must be covered with cement fibre cladding panels on the outside.

Celotex RS5000 insulation was later fixed to the outside of Grenfell Tower with combustible plastic-filled cladding and has been blamed for helping to spread the fire that killed 71 people in June last year.

BRE describes its BR135 reports as a "classification of fire performance" and each one states: "the system specification and installation details have been provided by the client."

Local Government Association Chairman Lord Porter described the revelations as shocking.

"They add further doubt that the testing process surrounding the BS8414 test can be relied upon as proof of product safety," he said.

"It is hugely concerning that such level of doubt has now been cast over the test, not only by different parts of the industry but also by BRE themselves.

"Building owners who are removing flammable cladding urgently need clear advice from the Government about what they can and cannot safely put on high-rise blocks as a replacement."

Celotex, which suspended supply of RS5000 insulation in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire described the error as "a matter of real regret".

It went on: "We fully recognise its potential seriousness and that it will give rise to concern. We are working hard to arrange the further testing as quickly as possible and we will make a further announcement once the results of that testing are available."