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Director’s fire risk failings

Posted on 3rd November, 2022

A director’s fire risk failings has resulted in prosecution.  A building contractor has been fined £600,000 and its director has been ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and fined £4,200 following serious and repeated failings in managing the risk of fire during work at a construction site.

In January 2018, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) undertook a proactive inspection to investigate health and safety failings by S&S Quality Building Contractors Limited at a construction site at Regent House, Brentwood, Essex after a concern was raised that people were sleeping on site.

The subsequent HSE investigation, which was assisted by Essex Fire & Rescue Service, identified failings in fire management at the site which created risks to workers and members of the public who were visiting show flats outside of business hours.

The environment at Regent House was poorly managed and the construction work was being carried out in an unsafe manner which could have resulted in a fire.

S&S Quality Building Contractors had previously been subject to HSE interventions after risks of a fire had been identified across a number of sites over several years. Evidence gathered during the proactive HSE investigation indicated that the company director, Shlomo Pines, regularly attended the Regent House site and failed to implement improvements from previous HSE interventions.

S&S Quality Building Contractors Limited of Hawthorn Business Park, Granville Road, London, pleaded guilty to breaching 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £36,894 at Basildon Crown Court on 25 October 2022.

Company director Shlomo Pines, of St. Johns Road, Golders Green, London pleaded guilty to contravening Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He received a community order to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and was fined £4,200.

“S&S Quality Building Contractors Limited completely ignored the importance of fire safety measures on a construction site led by a director who wilfully chose to ignore the risks despite evidence he knew how to make things safe. This unsurprisingly resulted in a site where risks were also ignored by his workers.

“Follow the guidance, get competent advice and take responsibility that the law requires at the very least, or someone may get hurt, which thankfully did not eventuate here.”

HSE Inspector Prentiss Clarke-Jones
Director's fire risk failings
Fire risks at construction sites (stock image)

Fire safety Guidance

Every year many construction site workers are killed or injured because of their work, and many others suffer serious ill health. The hazards are not, however, restricted to people working on sites.  Children and other members of the public are also killed or injured because construction activities have not been adequately controlled. The construction industry’s performance has steadily improved, but the rates of death, serious injury and ill health are still among the highest of all industries.  Fire is a hazard at construction sites and those in control of such activities must take appropriate precautions to protect workers.

In July this year, the HSE updated its guidance, Fire safety in construction (HSG168, Third Edition), which provides practical advice on eliminating and reducing the risk of fire in construction projects.  The guidance document is part of the HSE’s series of health and safety guidance for construction and is aimed to support those with legal duties under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM).  It also covers fire safety legislation and seeks to embed good fire risk management from design through to project completion.

The guidance is applicable to all construction processes on construction sites, but some aspects are relevant to specific construction methods. Whilst the guidance is not compulsory, alternative methods employed should be at least as effective.  The guidance provides advice for clients, principal designers, principal contractors and others involved in construction projects.

The document places importance on risk assessment as the starting point with the well established 5 step process which we have covered in previous articles;

  • Identify hazards
  • Identify who may be harmed
  • Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from the risk
  • Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
  • Review

All persons with duties under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 must contribute to good fire risk management and legal compliance. There are also duties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) which applies in England and Wales.  The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) place duties on employers to prevent fires and explosions arising from work with dangerous substances. Examples include flammable liquids and gases, gases under pressure, organic dusts, and corrosive substances. Employers must mitigate the consequences should they occur. Dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres are defined in Regulation 2 of DSEAR.  The HSE has also published a DSEAR Approved Code of Practice L138.

The commercial consequences of construction fires can be devastating. It is estimated that there are hundreds of construction fires annually. These fires not only put the lives of workers and others at risk but can also result in damage both on site and off site, ranging from tens of thousands to millions of pounds and invariably leading to severe delays in the project programme.

If you require health and safety advice for your business, please contact one of the Jacksons team.

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