New construction products regulator to have tough enforcement powers

Out-Law News | 29 Jan 2021 | 9:24 am | 1 min. read

The UK will establish a dedicated national construction products regulator with strong enforcement powers to ensure homes are built from safe materials, the housing secretary has announced.

The new regulator will sit within the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), which will be given up to £10 million in funding to establish the new function. It will work closely with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards to encourage and enforce compliance.

The construction products regulator will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk, and to prosecute companies which flout the rules on product safety. It will also be able to carry out its own product tests when investigating concerns.

Bridges Kevin

Kevin Bridges

Partner, Head of Health and Safety

The success of the regulator will depend on the detail of its powers and adequate resourcing to ensure it can utilise those powers effectively - clear guidance will be required.

The government has also commissioned an independent review of the previous construction products testing regimes. The review, which will report later this year, will cover any weaknesses in the previous regimes and make recommendations on how abuse of the testing system can be prevented.

Health and safety law expert Kevin Bridges of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "Trading Standards has typically been the enforcing authority in relation to the present regulatory regime on product safety which derives from retained EU law and enforcing UK regulations, together representing Regulations 305/2011 (EU) and Construction Product Regulations 2013".

"This represents the next major phase in the government's fundamental overhaul of building safety regulation. The success of the regulator will depend on the detail of its powers and adequate resourcing to ensure it can utilise those powers effectively - clear guidance will be required," he said.

The government published its Building Safety Bill in July. The Bill, which has been described by the government as "the biggest change to our building safety regime for 40 years", will introduce new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety in England and construction products throughout the UK.

Separately, the Construction Products Association (CPA) has published a draft industry code on construction product information, which seeks to address some of the concerns around the marketing of construction projects identified by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent review of building regulation and fire safety. A consultation on the draft code opens on 1 February 2021, and will run until 31 March.

The code is made up of 11 clauses underpinned by five "acid tests" for product information: that it should be clear; accurate; up-to-date; accessible; and unambiguous. Manufacturers that sign up to the code must commit to minimum standards, but are strongly encouraged to  go beyond those standards in their product information.

Co-written by Simon Tingle of Pinsent Masons.