Unsafe cladding prompts calls for better building regulation

Thursday, 07 September, 2017

Unsafe cladding prompts calls for better building regulation

Master Builders has responded to the recent report on ABC’s Four Corners program about unsafe building cladding, stating that it wants the community to have faith in the safety of the Australian building environment.

The fires at the Grenfell Tower in the UK have sparked concern about the safety of building materials used here in Australia.

“Fires at the Grenfell Tower in the UK and the Lacrosse building in Victoria have highlighted the importance of a regulatory system that has the confidence of both the community and the building industry,” said Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia.

“As Master Builders has consistently said, the challenge is to make more effective the extensive and robust regulatory regime that ensures the safe use of building products.”

Master Builders has been calling for a range of reforms that applies to the whole building supply chain. This includes the need for a centrally administered building product certification system with clear, accessible information and improved rigour and enforcement of the current regulations.

“Ensuring that everyone in the construction chain — manufacturers, designers, importers, wholesalers, regulators and builders — has access to clear, consistent and readily available (and reliable) information about building products will assist to reduce the incidence of them being used in a non-compliant way,” Wawn said.

The Australian Steel Institute (ASI) also responded to the report stating it believes that with many lives at stake, early and independent verification should be standard practice for all safety-critical building products.

“The current regulatory system confuses who is ultimately responsible. And the existing ‘big stick’ at the end of the process when building certification is enacted is problematic as it is too late and often too costly to address issues properly,” said ASI Chief Executive Tony Dixon.

“Third-party certification of building products and processes to requirements directly linked to the level of risk and complexity of a building under construction is the most appropriate way to ensure risk of building failure is minimised.”

ASI has further suggested that the National Construction Code (NCC) should be configured to promote the concept of risk-based, fit-for-purpose classification of construction products, perhaps utilising a classification scheme such as that adopted in the recently published standard, AS/NZS 5131, covering steelwork fabrication and erection.

“Currently in the NCC, risk is quantified only in relation to certain load types. It should also be quantified on the resistance (product capacity) side of the equation by introducing an apt classification scheme,” said Dixon.

Meanwhile, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has welcomed the call for a total Australian ban on dangerous cladding by a Senate Committee Inquiry into the highly flammable and life-threatening polyethylene core aluminium cladding.

“We welcome the report’s recommendation for a total ban on the import and use of the dangerous cladding in Australia, a ban we called for in June after a two-year campaign for a national audit,” CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said.

“The CFMEU has been blowing the whistle on unsafe cladding for two years, urging action that was largely ignored.

“We welcome this report and support all of its recommendations, particularly the immediate and total ban on the import and use of the dangerous cladding.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there is no point having an Australian Standard if it is not enforced.

“If fully implemented, these recommendations will go a long way toward restoring accountability, safety and integrity to the Australian building products industry.”

 Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Donna

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