Building Products Regulator? Why Not?

Government plans to regulate product performance should give us all pause for thought.

The recently announced establishment of a construction products regulator is an uncomfortable recognition that relying entirely on the competence or integrity of manufacturers is not sufficient to ensure the safety or quality of building projects.

The new regulator will operate within the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), working with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards to encourage and enforce compliance.

Regulation and government oversight is never exactly welcome but was an inevitable consequence of the findings emerging from the Grenfell Enquiry.

Speaking as the initiative was announced, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick pointed to: “deeply disturbing allegations of malpractice by some construction product manufacturers and their employees, and of the weaknesses of the present product testing regime.” 

For obvious reasons the Regulator is focused first and foremost on safety, but the process by which it proposes to “examine weaknesses in previous testing regimes for construction products, and to recommend how the abuse of the testing system can be prevented” will no doubt prompt a widescale review of all product testing.

It would be glib to say that responsible manufacturers have nothing to fear. Better would be to acknowledge that every one of us needs to double and triple-check the wording of our marketing materials and technical advice to make sure no inaccuracies creep in.

And where certification of product performance relies on testing, that testing procedure has to be unquestionable. If it takes a government-appointed regulator to achieve that degree of rigour then we should welcome the move.