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Architect fined for safety breaches on timber frame scheme

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Sunderland practice Mario Minchella Architects has been fined for safety failings in the construction of a new timber-framed care home in Helmington, County Durham

The practice was handed a £1,500 fine and asked to pay £816 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

The breach of regulations revolves around the architect failing to notify the contractor about the flammability of the timber frame used in the construction of the new building in Ocboer 2012.

A routine inspection by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the separation distance between the new timber frame and the building under construction an an existing care home was insufficient.

The HSE concluded that, had the timber frame caught fire, there would be serious risk that it could spread to the care home, putting staff and residents lives at risk.

Teesside Magistrates Court heard how it would have been reasonable for the architect to alert construction workers of the additional fire risk in order for them to take action accordingly.

Speaking after the case, HSE 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.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I'm confused. They were fined for not telling a contractor that timber burns? Do we really have to spell this out to them?
    Hope they told them to take care with the hammer and nails or they could really be in trouble.

    Seriously, if the Principle Contractor was deemed to be competent to do the job they should know how to build a timeber frame safely, even if it is next to an existing building. If they were not competent then the CDMC-C should be the one in court.

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