Following the recommendations made in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report, the government has initiated the setup of a Building Products Regulator. This new division will be part of the Office for Product Safety & Standards within the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. To help set up the Building Products Regulator division, the government has approved an initial £10m investment to ensure that the division is set up correctly.
The need for this government body was identified after the investigation of the fateful Grenfell Tower fire, which highlighted the failure of the construction industry to regulate itself. The investigation found flaws in the cladding of the external wall systems of the buildings, drawing attention to the fact that many independently certified products are not fit for purpose. The independent review conducted highlighted the various loopholes in the current systems and standards in the industry and provided suggestions on how to rectify them and make the industry safer. Consequently, based on the recommendations mentioned in the review, the role of the new Building Products Regulator was put together. The main role of the new Regulator will be to ensure that structures are built only from materials that have been certified as safe in order to improve and uphold the standards for construction products in the industry.
The Regulator for Building Products will also be responsible for ensuring that products used in construction are properly tested, have the required certification, are labelled correctly and marketed properly to ensure transparency and efficiency in the industry. These responsibilities are based on the various recommendations in the Dame Judith Hackitt Review commissioned after the fateful Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. The Regulator will also have the power to investigate and conduct product tests when required, remove or ban products that present a significant safety risk and prosecute companies that fail to comply with the rules on product safety.
The setting up of the Building Products Regulator marks the next stage of the government’s efforts to enforce a stricter regime on the industry, increase accountability and promote transparency in the industry. The progress on regulatory reform includes the publication of the draft Building Safety Bill in July 2020 and appointment of the new Building Safety Regulator that is already up and running in shadow form with the Health & Safety Executive.
The Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) will be expanded to make space for the operations of the new Regulator, and an initial £10m fund will be allocated to establish and set up the new function. The division will work closely with the new Building Safety Regulator and local authority trading standards to encourage and enforce compliance in the industry.
In addition to this new appointment, the government has also commissioned an independent review to study and test the various weaknesses in the existing test regimes for different categories of construction products. This will be pivotal in identifying loopholes and preventing abuse of these testing systems. The recommendations from this independent study should be available for delivery later this year.