Principal Designer Fined Over Fire Risk

Principal Designer and Principal Contractor failed to Comply with CDM 2015 Responsibilities

A Principal Designer and Principal Contractor have both been  fined after serious breaches of their health and safety duties under CDM 2015.

Exeter Magistrates heard that concern was raised about the lack of health and safety controls on a large timber frame extension project at a residential home in Exmouth.

HSE inspectors visited the site and found numerous health and safety breaches including:

  • Risk – uncontrolled high-risk activities putting workers at risk of death, serious injuries or ill health including falls from height, fire, slips and trips and poorly controlled wood dust.
  • Management – a “total disregard” for health and safety and site management; and
  • Fire – risk of fire spread associated with the construction of a timber frame extension adjoining an existing building where physically and/or mentally impaired residents of the home were put at risk of injury or death due to the possibility of fire spreading into the home.

Further HSE investigation revealed that the work was not properly planned, nor appropriately supervised or carried out in a safe manner.  Third party risk was not considered.

The Principal Contractor was required to control how the work was carried out and to ensure that the work would be completed safely. The Principal Designer failed during the pre-construction phase to consider the risk of fire spread to the vulnerable nearby residents.

  • Coast & Country Construction Limited – of Concord Road, Exmouth did not attend court but were found guilty in their absence to breaching Section 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and have been fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,039.
  • Paul Humphries Architects Ltd – of Salterton Road, Exmouth pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 (1) and 11 (3) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, and have been fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,039.

Section 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires an employer to ensure the welfare of employees and to prepare and as often as may be appropriate revise a written statement of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out that policy, and to bring the statement and any revision of it to the notice of all of his employees.

CDM 2015 Regulation 11(1) requires that the Principal Designer must plan, manage and monitor the pre-construction phase and coordinate matters relating to health and safety during the pre-construction phase to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the project is carried out without risks to health or safety. In fulfilling this duty the Principal Designer must identify and eliminate or control foreseeable risks to the health or safety of any person carrying out or liable to be affected by construction work.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Nicole Buchanan said, “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.  Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that fail to control workplace risks appropriately.”

Elizabeth Sinclair, Director of Epica Health & Safety, said, “This case was heard from breaches found in 2016 when CDM15 was fairly new.  This however is no excuse for the failings found during both pre-construction and construction phases.  As a timber build project, fire protection, in particular, of those surrounding the site including those working on site is paramount. Epica Health & Safety help can assist clients, Principal Designers, Principal Contractors and Contractors meet their legal requirements whatever role taken with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.”