Grenfell firm didn’t tell customers about dangers of cladding after 2009 blaze, inquiry hears

Employee says fire shows ‘how dangerous’ polyethene panels can be ‘when it comes to architecture’

Matt Mathers
Thursday 18 February 2021 18:25 GMT
(Getty Images)

Arconic, the company which made cladding for Grenfell Tower, did not tell its customers about the dangers of one of its products following a 2009 blaze in another building because nobody was injured or died, an inquiry has heard.

The president of the firm's French arm, Claude Schmidt, told the Grenfell Tower inquiry his company did not warn about the use of polyethene (PE) panels, despite being alerted to a fire in Bucharest, Romania.

A colleague of Mr Schmidt's told him the fire showed "how dangerous PE can be when it comes to architecture".

They were later fitted on Grenfell Tower in west London, which caught fire in 2017, resulting in the deaths of 72 people.

Mr Schmidt told the inquiry on Thursday he did not think Arconic was responsible for the panels used on the Bucharest building but admitted he was aware of the possible dangers of PE in a fire.

"As far as we knew, there had been no injury," Mr Schmidt said of the 2009 blaze.

Richard Millett QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked: "Is the reason why Arconic took no steps to do anything internally with (the product) because it only affected the outside of the building, there was no loss of life or injury, and it was a widely used product?

"Have I got your evidence right?" Mr Schmidt replied: "Yes."

Mr Millett asked: "Is personal injury really an appropriate measure by which fire safety of (the product) should be judged?"

Mr Schmidt responded: "It is one of the elements with regard to the evaluation, yes."

He added that he did not know why the company did not put out advice to customers about the potential danger of using PE.

He also conceded he did not establish training systems within Arconic about the usage and dangers of PE on high-rise buildings following the Bucharest blaze.

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