A big step forward in pursuit of safer products

Blog by CPA Chief Executive, Peter Caplehorn. This piece was also published in Building Magazine

The construction industry as we know it has to change. There is clear evidence that in many areas of the industry, deficiencies exist that can no longer go unaddressed. This was made abundantly clear in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report and the subsequent responses from government in support of her recommendations.

As part of the range of measures working their way through government, we can see a variety of new bodies, regulators and regulations starting emerge. This will come as no surprise to those working in the built environment post-Grenfell. The government’s commitment to reform has been clear and the building blocks of change are gradually being put in place to drive that much-needed change.

While we wait for the primary and secondary legislation that will drive this new regulatory regime, the government has recently announced its ambition to regulate construction products. Product safety has taken a step forward with the formal announcement of a new construction product safety regulator. This will involve the extension of the remit of the office of product safety to cover construction products and will be based in the Office for Product Safety and Standards with a significant £10 million budget.

First mentioned in Hackitt Review, the construction product regulator is now becoming reality from the government. The announcement is the first step towards developing controls that will ensure that construction products will be subject to scrutiny, controls, and possibly subject to sanctions if things go wrong with performance.

At the Construction Products Association (CPA), we are still awaiting the detailed remit scope and mode of operations for the regulator from government. It is clear, however, that this announcement will bring a new drive towards addressing construction product and building safety that has sadly been found lacking in recent years.

The CPA has already engaged with the team in the Office for Product Safety and Standards and will continue to work closely to crystallise a beneficial and a harmonious working relationship from the start when the new regulators office becomes operational.

In addition to the regulator, industry has been working hard itself to reform and identifying where improvements can be made that will support and reflect policy positions being delivered by government.

For instance, work on competence as identified in the ‘Raising / Setting the Bar’ Reports has been underway for some time. As part of a wider approach to lifting competence in the industry, there has also been a focus on competence in the use of products. This work will develop into a framework allowing industry to identify the appropriate levels of experience and understanding to safely specify, install and maintain products at all stages of any project. 

In addition, the CPA has recently launched a consultation on the proposed new Code for Construction Products Information (CCPI). This code has been developed by a group of industry experts from the CPA’s Marketing Integrity Group and is intended to address shortcomings in the quality of product information. The scheme deploying the code, which will be launched after the consultation feedback has been taken into account, will enable product manufacturers to certify that their information is clear, accurate, up-to-date, accessible and unambiguous.

The scheme will also involve third party verification with necessary checks and balances to maintain an independent focus and objective approach. There will also be a way for businesses other than manufacturers to support the scheme. It is hoped that this is a significant step forward by industry and will align and support the work of the new product regulator. Further information on the new Code and how to respond to the consultation can be found at our dedicated microsite: https://buildingsafely.co.uk/

Both the new regulator and the proposed new Code should be well on the way to affecting significant change on the industry by the end of this year. Hopefully a welcome change to the benefit of everyone, be they creators or users of the built environment.