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Builder neglected timber frame fire risk

A south Wales construction company has been fined £100,000 after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered inadequate fire precautions of 54 timber-frame houses it was constructing.

Builder neglected timber frame fire risk
JG Hale Construction's site in Blaenavon, where 54 timber-frame houses were being built | Image credit: HSE

The HSE launched an investigation on 27 July after it carried out an unannounced inspection of J G Hale Construction’s site in the town of Blaenavon. It found the company did not properly plan and manage its site and there were no control measures in place to prevent a fire starting and spreading. 

There was a 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 hit or run over by construction vehicles, Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard. 

The HSE issued J G Hale with improvement notices for fire safety and vehicle safety and the company complied with these after two further inspections. 

J G Hale pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 27 and 29 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, which stipulate that traffic routes must be organised to ensure pedestrians and vehicles can operate safely in close proximity to each other, and that steps must be taken to prevent injury from a fire or explosion. It was fined £40,000 and £60,000 for each offence and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £4,634 plus a £120 statutory surcharge. 

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 the 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.”

Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine

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