News Item: Don't Let Alterations Burn Down Your Building

If you're considering an extension using a timber-framed construction it's essential to ensure that the fire risks are managed throughout the build phase.

In 2017, E Manton Ltd, a timber frame designer, MTE (Leicester) Ltd, a manufacturer and installer and Thornton-Firkin LLP, a principal designer were working together on a project at a residential care home. The project involved the installation of a three-storey timber-framed construction which also had a timber-frame link extension to the existing building. The work was being carried out whilst the home was occupied with residents and staff. As a large building site, it caught the attention of the HSE which inspected the site. The fire risks of timber-framed construction are one of the regulator's priority areas, and it's therefore unsurprising that the inspector was unimpressed. The fire prevention measures were found to be inadequate and the blame was laid at the door of all three companies.

Note. There have been major fires involving timber-framed buildings under construction in which the fire has spread due to the proximity of other properties. In this case the situation was potentially much worse because the new building was joined to the existing structure, and the residents would need extra time and assistance to escape.

Timber-framed buildings can be vulnerable to rapid fire spread early in the construction phase when the timber is not covered by more fire-resisting materials such as plasterboard - a fact which would have been well known to the defendants. Had they acted in accordance with industry good practice, the risk could easily have been brought under control.

All three companies pleaded guilty to breaching s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Fines of £26,000, £20,000 and £8,000 were given to the companies respectively, plus costs.

Image Source: HSE