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Building safety expert urges UK government for interim product-safety measures ahead of elections

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Urgent call for interim safety measures

Former government construction adviser Paul Morrell has called on the UK government to implement temporary safety measures for product testing in the construction industry.

This plea comes as Morrell expressed doubt about comprehensive action being taken before the upcoming general election.

Last year, Morrell authored a report for the government, recommending numerous improvements to the current safety testing regime, brought to light by the Grenfell tragedy.

Speaking at the Futurebuild conference on 5 March, Morrell highlighted the government’s lack of action since his report, noting his uncertainty about forthcoming changes.

Proposal for a general safety requirement

Morrell proposed a general safety requirement, to be formulated with the industry’s input, as a provisional solution to enhance the safety of building products.

He stated: “I’ve written to [the government] to suggest that, recognising that nothing is going to happen this side of an election – and you can shout at the industry but that doesn’t help – you will just say ‘we are minded to introduce a general safety requirement.

“And we are minded to have a concept of safety-critical products, which need a higher level of care’.”

He emphasised the need for the industry to lead the discussion on new checks for pre-market risk assessment, especially for safety-critical products.

Challenges in construction product standards

The report, titled ‘Testing for a Safer Future’, co-written with legal expert Anneliese Day, was published last April.

It scrutinised the ability of regulators to enforce higher standards and highlighted the failure of certification bodies to revamp operations post-Grenfell.

Morrell also addressed the need for clarity on whether the UK will adhere to EU product-testing rules or establish its own standards post-Brexit.

He pointed out the opportunities and risks associated with diverging from the European CE mark, particularly in setting new standards for product toxicity.

Construction product certification and UK’s post-Brexit approach

The ongoing debate on construction product certification standards post-Brexit was also a focus.

Firms have been warned that the government’s pledge to allow indefinite use of the European CE mark regime doesn’t extend to construction products.

According to Morrell, UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) standards will be required after 30 June 2025, presenting both opportunities and risks for UK policy on product certification.

IFSJ Comment

The call by Paul Morrell for interim product-safety measures in construction ahead of the UK general election underscores the need for continued vigilance and proactive steps in building safety.

His recommendations highlight the challenges in establishing robust product standards and the complexities arising from Brexit.

These developments remind us of the ongoing responsibility of governments, industry stakeholders, and regulators to ensure the safety and well-being of the public through effective safety regulations and standards.

It’s crucial for all parties involved to collaborate and contribute towards creating a safer construction environment.

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