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Grenfell Tower disaster: Cladding firm failed to disclose ‘disastrous’ fire tests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Fears of another disaster similar to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy continues to haunt London and the rest of the country

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard evidence that the company which made cladding for the doomed building failed to inform certifiers about a “disastrous” failed fire test 13 years before the disaster that claimed 72 lives.

The president of Arconic, Claude Schmidt, told the inquiry the failure constituted a “misleading half truth”.

However, Schmidt strenuously denied that vital information was “deliberately concealed” from certifiers 

The failed test was conducted in 2004 on Arconic’s Reynobond PE (polyethylene) cassette product.

Reynobond PE panels come in cassette and rivet forms. The former was used as cladding on Grenfell Tower, which caught fire on June 14, 2017, resulting in the deaths of scores of people.  

Key information about the cassette paneling was withheld from both certification bodies and customers.

To make matters worse, both types of cladding (cassette and rivet) were sold under the same safety certificate issued by the British Board of Agrément (BBA) in 2008.  

The chief counsel of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Richard Millet QC, asserted that under the contract between Arconic and the BBA, the former was obliged to provide "any test data available".

This position was more or less confirmed by Arconic’s Schmidt, who when asked if his company was “legally required” to prove the cassette test data to the BBA, curtly replied (through a French translator): “Yes, probably”.

Meanwhile, Claude Wehrle - a technical manager at Arconic who is refusing to give oral evidence to the inquiry - said in a witness statement the company viewed the cassette test as a "rogue" result.

The Grenfell Tower inquiry, which has been severely delayed due to the restrictions brought about by the coronaviorus pandemic, continues.


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