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HSE warns timber industry on fire risks

The Health and Safety Executive has written an open letter to the timber frame industry highlighting the responsibility for reducing fire risks in urban areas.

HSE warns timber industry on fire risks

An open letter to the industry has warned that designers will be held responsible for ensuring timber frame designs fully take into account the close proximity of neighbouring buildings.

The letter has been produced in cooperation with the Structural Timber Association (STA), which represents the industry’s manufacturers and suppliers. STA and HSE are working together to promote a better understanding of fire risk management throughout all parts of the supply chain, including those outside STA’s membership.

The action is in the wake of serious incidents where fires involving timber frame structures under construction have affected neighbouring buildings.

HSE head of construction sector & policy, Simon Longbottom, writes: “Evidence from recent HSE inspections indicates that the risk of harm to occupants of neighbouring buildings from fire during the construction phase is not always effectively managed.

He warns that the HSE has found that not all duty holders understand what is required of them.

The HSE said the primary legal responsibility for assessing off-site fire risk rests with those making design and procurement decisions before work starts on site. The letter states that risk should be designed out as far as is reasonably practicable. The principal contractor is obliged to consider and manage risks arising from the activities under their control at the site stage.

Longbottom concludes: “Anyone in the supply chain who makes a decision, which significantly affects fire safety during construction, should be prepared to justify that decision.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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