Fire Risk Assessor Prosecutions

24th February 2017

The team at Vulcan Fire Training are advising businesses to ensure they take their fire safety responsibilities and legal obligations seriously to avoid the risk of prosecution.

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Managing Director, Graham Holloway, has over 55 years' experience working in the fire services industry, and comments: “The consequences of not adhering to government legislation on fire safety can be severe, claiming ignorance is not a defence! If you are a business owner it is your responsibility to ensure you have a fire risk assessment, produce a fire emergency plan, and implement and maintain a fire risk management system.”

As a warning and example of the potential outcomes if you fail to meet your fire safety obligations, we have outlined a few recent prosecutions below:

Case 1: Fire Risk assessor is sentenced to jail after huge failings

TWO fires which devastated charity shops in Pontypool and Newbridge followed the failings of a risk assessor, a court has heard.

Brian Fakir, aged 59, pleaded guilty to 13 charges relating to failures in carrying out risk assessments at St David’s Hospice Care shops across South Wales at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday.

A fire at the charity’s shop in High Street, Newbridge, in February 2015, was so serious that it had to be demolished, along with a neighbouring property.

It followed another major blaze at a St David’s charity shop in Hanbury Road, Pontypool, prompting an investigation by South Wales Fire and Rescue which found serious deficiencies in Fakir’s assessments.

Three other shops belonging to St David’s in Gwent, at Blackwood, Caldicot, and Bargoed, were subsequently issued with enforcement notices as separate failings placed staff and customers at risk of death or serious injury.

Fakir, of Phyllis Street, Barry, was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to undertake 180 hours of unpaid community work.

The case is the first of its kind in Wales – no other Welsh Fire Rescue Service has taken a risk assessor to court over failure to carry out suitable and sufficient fire risk assessments.

Speaking after the verdict, Steve Rossiter, head of business fire safety for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) said: “The court has sent a strong message to would-be fire risk assessors, that there is a clear expectation that as an assessor, you must be competent at carrying out a fire risk assessment.

“This means having a good understanding of fire safety requirements, both technically and practically.”

Adrian Hadley, the deputy chief executive of St David’s Hospice Care, said: “We were very disappointed with the standard of the fire risk assessments that we had commissioned and were delivered by the defendant.

“We have since had to invest a significant amount of money on remedial works to ensure that all of our properties comply with fire safety legislation, this has included carrying out new fire risk assessments.”

Source: South Wales Argus

Case 2: Landlord fined £15,000 for fire risk assessment failings!

The premises contained a number of breaches of fire safety legislation and lack of general fire precautions that placed the occupants at risk of death or serious injury.”

A landlord and housing co-operative have been handed fines totalling more than £15,000 after 12 French students were living in a home which left them ‘at serious risk of death’.

Damaged fire doors, faulty fire alarms and a lack of fire extinguishers greeted safety experts from the fire service when they raided 143 Manchester Road, Burnley, in October 2014, the town’s magistrates court was told.

Front and back doors at the four-storey property could only be locked from the inside, potentially hindering any escape in an emergency, the court heard.

Fire chiefs found that 12 French students and two French carers had been given rooms there by Embrace Co-operation Ltd, which had leased the house from Dr Muhammad Bhatti.

Dr Bhatti, 42, of Albany Road, Liverpool, was found guilty after a trial by Pennine magistrates of four offences under fire safety regulations, covering failures to provide general fire precautions, maintaining alarms, ensuring emergency routes could be used and providing easily accessible locks.

Embrace was directly responsible for the placement of the students and failed to carry out an adequate fire risk assessment of the property.

The firm, based in London, pleaded guilty to six offences.

Bhatti was fined a total of £5,320 which includes £4,000 towards the fire service’s legal costs and Embrace was fined £10,500.

Both Dr Bhatti and Embrace were found to have put the occupiers at risk of serious injury or death should a fire occur.

Warren Spencer, for the fire service, said: “The premises contained a number of breaches of fire safety legislation and lack of general fire precautions that placed the occupants at risk of death or serious injury.”

Inspectors also noted there were holes in the basement’s ceiling, which would have caused any fire to spread upwards, as well as the problems with the front and back door locks and lack of firefighting equipment.

Tony Crook, Lancashire Fire’s group safety manager, said: “We hope this prosecution will ensure that the standard of his properties are kept within the requirements of the law.”

Source: Lancashire Telegraph

Ensure that your building meets its legal requirements with relevant fire training from Vulcan including fire extinguisher and awareness, fire warden and fire risk assessment.

To ensure you know how to carry out fire risk assessments book one of our training courses here.