Architects fined for safety failings in care home construction

A firm of architects has been fined for safety failings in the construction of a new timber frame care home in Hemlington.

Teesside Magistrates’ Court today (26 November) heard that Mario Minchella Ltd had not given contractors relevant information about the flammability of the timber frame used in the construction of the new building in October 2012.

A routine inspection of the work by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector found that the separation distance between the new timber frame building under 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.

HSE found that there was nothing in the design specification produced by Mario Minchella Ltd to alert construction workers erecting the timber frame to the additional fire risk it created, and the need to take action accordingly.

The court was told that it would have been reasonable for Mario Minchella Ltd 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.

Mario Minchella Ltd, of Swallow House, Parsons Road, Washington, Tyne and Wear, was fined a total of £1,500 after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The company was also ordered to pay £816 costs.

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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Notes to Editors

  1. Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Regulation 11(3)(b) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, states: “Every designer shall in preparing or modifying a design which may be used in construction work in Great Britain avoid foreseeable risks to the health and safety of any person liable to be affected by such construction work.”
  3. Regulation 11(6)(c) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, states: “The designer shall take all reasonable steps to provide with his design sufficient information about aspects of the design of the structure or its construction or maintenance as will adequately assist contractors to comply with their duties under these Regulations.”
  4. HSE news releases are available at

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