Timber_frame_construction1Extract from the HSE website

Mario Minchella Ltd from Tyne and Wear, a firm of architects, has recently been fined for safety failings in the construction of a new timber frame care home in Hemlington.

Magistrates heard that Mario Minchella had not given contractors information about the flammability of a timber frame used in the construction of the care-home in 2012.  A routine HSE inspection discovered that separation distances between the new construction and an adjacent occupied care home was insufficient.  As a result, had the timber frame caught fire there was a serious risk that the radiant heat would cause the fire to spread to the care home, putting the lives of residents and staff inside at risk.

The HSE found that there was nothing in their design specification to alert construction workers erecting the timber frame to the additional fire risk it created and the need to take action accordingly.  Magistrates were told that it would have been reasonable to have specified in its design that fire-resistant timber be used or that it 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.

A fine of £1,500 was given and the company was also ordered to pay £816 costs.

The HSE’s inspector, Andrea Robbins, said:

“…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.  When burning, exposed timber frame structures generate a lot of radiant heat and there have been a number of large and serious fires which have affected neighbouring properties with devastating consequences, though thankfully without loss of life.  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.”