Architects fined for timber frame safety failings

Architects fined for timber frame safety failings

A firm of architects failed to provide information to contractors on the flammability risks of timber frames being used to construct a new building at a care home in Teeside.

In October 2012, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out a routine inspection of the construction site in Hemlington.  The inspector found that the architects, Mario Minchella Ltd, had not given contractors relevant information about the flammability of the timber frames being used to construct the new building. As a result, had the timber frames caught fire there was a serious risk that the radiant heat would cause the fire to spread through the care home. 

HSE inspector Andrea Robins feels that it was not unreasonable for Mario Minchella to have specified the use of fire-resistant timber, or to have considered the sequence of construction so that the timber frame of each floor was clad before the next one was constructed, reducing the amount of timber exposed at any one time.

‘Timber frames will burn faster and more completely when the panels are incomplete and not yet protected by the usual internal fire-resistant plasterboard and external cladding’, said inspector Robins. ‘There was a real danger here that had there been a fire it could have spread to the adjacent care home, putting the lives of the residents and staff inside at risk. Mario Minchella Ltd failed to consider this risk in its design and failed to provide sufficient information to the contractors to enable them to carry out the construction safely’.

Mario Minchella appeared at Teeside Magistrates’ Court on 26 November and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 11(3)(b) and reg. 11(6)(c) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. It was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £816 in costs.