Fire regulations breach lands housing developer in court

A housing developer fell under the spotlight of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) when an unannounced visit uncovered serious fire safety regulation breaches.

Cwmbran Magistrates heard how serious health and safety breaches were discovered during HSE’s snap investigation on 27 July at J G Hale Construction Limited’s site in the centre of Blaenavon, South Wales.

Fifty-four timber-frame houses were under construction, which carry a serious fire risk to construction workers if not planned or correctly managed.

HSE found that measures had not been taken to prevent a fire from starting and getting out of control.

All the houses were at the same stage of construction, with a lack of site management control, poor fire protection, insufficient means to detect a fire and raise the alarm, incorrect control of ignition sources and a general lack of emergency planning.

The HSE also found that construction workers were at risk of being struck or crushed by vehicles on site.

Improvement Notices were served regarding fire and vehicle safety issues and these were complied with after two further inspection visits.

J G Hale Construction Limited, which also manufactures timber frames for the construction industry, pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was fined a total of £100,000.

Following 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 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.”

Lara Murray, a health and safety legal expert with Palmers, said: “This latest HSE case illustrates that they take breaches of the construction industry’s safety regulations very seriously indeed and will not hesitate to prosecute, particularly in situations such as this where, it would appear, the firm had been given numerous prior warnings by inspectors.

“Companies need to remember that health and safety regulations are in place to keep workers safe, which in turn leads to less down-time as a result of untoward incidents and ultimately greater productivity.”

For further information on Palmers employment and health and safety legal support, please contact us.