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TIMBER FRAME FIRM FAILS ON FIRE PRECAUTIONS

Company fined £100k over failure to follow HSE advice

J G Hale Construction Ltd based in South Wales has been fined £100,000 for “running an unsafe timber-frame construction site” in July 2015.

Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard that HSE launched an investigation following an unannounced visit to inspect a project on which the company was working in the centre of Blaenavon where 54 timber-frame homes were under construction.

HSE believe such projects pose a serious fire risk if not planned or managed properly. If a fire starts in such partly built wooden structures the speed and intensity of fire spread can be extreme putting workers and even members of the public at risk of harm.

Little fire protection in place

HSE found that adequate measures to prevent a fire starting and getting out of control were not in place. All the houses were under construction at broadly the same stage with:

  • little fire protection in place;
  • lack of site management control;
  • insufficient means to detect a fire and raise the alarm;
  • poor control of ignition sources; and
  • a general lack of emergency planning.

Workers were also at risk of being struck or crushed by construction vehicles on site. Improvement Notices were served regarding both fire and vehicle safety issues and these were complied with after two further inspection visits.

Plenty of previous warnings

J G Hale Construction Limited, of Neath, South Wales, who also manufacture timber frames for the construction industry, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 27 and 29 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, and was fined £40,000 and £60,000 respectively. The company was also ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £4633.76 and a statutory surcharge of £120.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Liam Osborne said:

“Hale Construction had been given plenty of warnings about fire-safety and traffic risks in the recent past, including from HSE.

Timber-frame houses are perfectly safe once they’re finished and protected, but when under construction they can be very dangerous.

Stringent fire-safety standards need to be in place well before the build starts, and then maintained and monitored”.

The Structural Timber Association (STA) publication 16 Steps to fire safety contains guidance for commercial building projects where timber is used as the structural method of build.

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