A senior technician responsible for safety testing the combustible insulation used on the Grenfell Tower was “seriously addicted to drugs” and fell asleep on the job, the disaster investigation has learned.
Kingspan knew Ivor Meredith, a technical director, was using drugs from 2010, when his owner reported him, according to the investigation, but the issue was ‘brushed aside’ until he was sacked in 2015.
Meredith has played a pivotal role in helping her employer sell her Kooltherm K-15 Phenolic Foam Insulation as suitable for use on high rise buildings by managing testing and certification.
He told the investigation that even though the plastic-based insulation foam had burned in tests, several of which failed, the company claimed it had limited combustibility and sold it for use on at least 240 tours in the UK. It was used on Grenfell alongside Celotex, another foam insulation.
Meredith admitted to being ’embroiled in Kingspan’s deliberate and calculated deception’ about the use of test results and the investigation learned he had to ‘make up a story’ to keep the foam boards safe. . He complained to his boss, “We are spreading the truth.”
His drug problem emerged in 2010, when his owner emailed Kingspan saying he “had a very serious drug addiction,” according to the investigation. Meredith said he was “a functional addict” at the time, but the report was “seen as a joke … by them [Kingspan] and by me ”.
He then helped Kingspan send letters of assurance on hundreds of projects, saying his product was suitable despite the lack of solid evidence, according to the investigation.
Investigation lawyer Kate Grange QC told her that “by being tasked with defending Kingspan’s position you knowingly misled a number of professionals about K15’s performance in the fire. “. He replied: “We followed the strategy described … yes.”
Competition intensified in 2014 when Celotex entered the market. Grange asked Meredith, “You knew that neither the Celotex RS5000 nor the Kingspan K15 should be used on buildings over 18 meters, did you?”
“I knew we had serious information gaps there, yes,” he said. “I tried to do my best to sit on my thoughts… It was quite a major headache. It was more than a major headache: it was a nightmare.
Notes from a meeting to discuss issues with his work in February 2015 indicated that he was sweating heavily and was “unusually tired”.
He was eventually fired, but in a meeting with senior management Meredith said, “The company knows I think I’ve always had a drug problem. Obviously there have been a number of times people joked with me, when I went to Amsterdam, with a job saying not to have these space cakes.
“Obviously I’m a bit of a DJ and raver, so people know this kind of culture mixes with drugs… I’m surprised no one thinks my hobby and part-time lifestyle has gotten worse.” 18 months ago. . He said his work was “completely hit by the hits, I couldn’t meet the deadlines, I couldn’t write consistently.”
Kingspan has previously apologized for “the shortcomings of the process during the period 2005 to 2014”, including that “certain statements made in the K15 product documentation and advice provided to customers were not sufficiently clear or categorical to explain the [testing] limits “.
He told the inquest that he was unaware that K15 was to be used on Grenfell and that building regulations at the time allowed its use on tall buildings as long as the overall coating system was compliant.
The investigation is continuing.