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The Grenfell Tower fire and Lacrosse cladding disaster have exposed the serious problem of non-conforming products (NCP) in the Australian market. CCN talks to Australian Industry Group CEO, Innes Willox, about finding a solution.

Employer body, the Ai Group, blames non-conforming products on a lack of independent verification and visible regulatory authority.

Ai Group CEO, Innes Willox, said Australia's regulatory system has not kept pace with the emergence of complex global supply chains.

“As a result, unscrupulous operators have taken advantage of weaknesses in the conformance framework by supplying these products into our markets,” he said. “To date, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.”

The AI Group undertook a survey of members to find out how extensive the problem is and if there is a solution.

“We found that 92 per cent of 222 respondent companies reported non-conforming product in their market,” Willox said.

“We found gaps and weaknesses in the building and construction conformance that included inadequacies with surveillance, audit checks, testing, first party certification and enforcement.”

Recognising the need to work with all sections of industry, the Ai Group formed the Construction Product Alliance (CPA) involving over 40 industry bodies.

The CPA has developed an 8-point action plan to tackle NCP and submitted it to the Building Ministers Forum for consideration.

Ai Group believes that the following are priorities to address the problem:

Regulators should be increasing surveillance and audit activities of product
High risk building products should have a higher level of evidence of compliance (third party certification) in the National Construction Code.
The feasibility of establishing a confidential reporting system to facilitate the reporting of NCP should be assessed.
Responsibility for product conformance should be established at point-of-sale

White paper

A new white paper from local building products company, Cemintel, examines how the use of these products have emerged as one of the fastest growing problems facing industry.

There have been a number of incidents in recent years which have highlighted the potentially devastating consequences of using non-conforming and non-compliant products in a project.

The paper looks at some of the most notorious events in recent years to be associated with the use of these products.

The events include the Lacrosse Apartments building fire, where non-compliant external cladding was found to have fuelled the fire which caused over $40 million worth of damage.

It also delves into the recent asbestos crisis, where a large number of products imported from China including roofing and metal skirting have been found to contain traces of asbestos, already exposing hundreds of workers to the deadly substance with fears the incidence will be far-reaching.

While the wheels are certainly in motion for tighter regulation across the industry to provide better protection against the use of non-compliant and non-conforming building products, there is no quick fix.

This paper helps industry professionals understand the risks involved with specifying non-conforming and non-compliant products, and what steps can be taken to help avoid potential disaster.

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